Hotshots killed in Ariz. fire remembered, mourned

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 1, 2013 at 11:41 pm •  Published: July 1, 2013

SCOTT NORRIS: THE 'IDEAL AMERICAN GENTELMAN'

Scott Norris, 28, was known around Prescott through his part-time job at Bucky O'Neill Guns.

"Here in Arizona the gun shops are a lot like barbershops. Sometimes you don't go in there to buy anything at all, you just go to talk," said resident William O'Hara. "I never heard a dirty word out of the guy. He was the kind of guy who if he dated your daughter, you'd be OK with it.

"He was just a model of a young, ideal American gentleman."

O'Hara's son Ryan, 19, said Norris' life and tragic death had inspired him to live a more meaningful life.

"He was a loving guy. He loved life. And I've been guilty of not looking as happy as I should, and letting things get to me, and Scott wasn't like that at all."

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WADE PARKER: ANOTHER SECOND GENERATION FIREFIGHTER

At 22, Wade Parker had just joined the Hotshots team. His father works for the nearby Chino Valley Fire Department, said retired Prescott Fire Department Capt. Jeff Knotek, who had known Wade since he was "just a little guy."

The younger Parker had been very excited about being part of the Hotshot crew, Knotek said.

"He was another guy who wanted to be a second generation firefighter," Knotek said. "Big, athletic kid who loved it, aggressive, assertive and in great shape."

"It's just a shame to see this happen," Knotek said.

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JOHN PERCIN JR.: STRONG, BRAVE, AMAZING

He loved baseball and had an unforgettable laugh. In his aunt's eyes, John Percin Jr. was, simply, "an amazing young man."

"He was probably the strongest and bravest young man I have ever met in my life," Donna Percin Pederson said in an interview with The Associated Press from her home in Portland, Ore.

John Percin Sr., declined to comment Monday. "It's not a good time right now."

Percin, 24, was a multisport high school athlete who graduated in 2007 from West Linn High School, southeast of Portland.

Geoff McEvers grew up playing baseball with Percin and remembered Percin as a fun-loving guy with an unforgettable laugh, The Oregonian newspaper reported.

McEvers said he learned about the Percin's death through friends.

"It's already tragic when you hear about those who died," McEvers told the newspaper, "but when you find out it's someone you know personally, it's tough."

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ANTHONY ROSE: 'BLOSSOMED' AS FIREMAN

Anthony Rose, 23, was one of the youngest victims. He grew up in Wisconsin and previously worked as a firefighter in nearby Crown King before moving on to become a Hotshot.

Retired Crown King firefighter Greg Flores said Rose "just blossomed in the fire department. He did so well and helped so much in Crown King. We were all so very proud of him."

Flores said the town was planning a fundraiser for Rose and hoped to also have a memorial to honor him.

"He was the kind of guy that his smile lit up the whole room and everyone would just rally around him," he said. "He loved what he was doing, and that brings me some peace of heart."

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JESSE STEED: 'GREAT FOR MORALE'

Jesse Steed's former colleagues remember him as a joker.

"He was a character. If you look at all the old photos of him, he was doing things to make people laugh," said Cooper Carr, who worked with Steed in the Hotshots from 2001 to 2003.

"He was good at impressions, and he sang songs; he was just great for morale. He'd just talk in a funny voice and have us all in stiches," Carr said. "And he was strong as an ox."

Carr remembers that Steed once spent the better part of an hour positioning a water bottle just right for a photo so that it would look like Yosemite falls was cascading into it.

Steed was also remembered for his dedication to fighting wildfires.

"He did it for a long, long time. I think he started in 2001, when he got out of the Marines. A job like the Hotshots is hard, hard work, and you don't stay in it if you don't love it," Carr said.

Steed, 36, was one of the older members of the crew. Renton, Wash., police officer Cassidy Steed said his brother "always put his life on the line for people who he knew he would never meet."

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TRAVIS TURBYFILL: 'BIG, HUGE MARINE'

Known as "Turby" among crew members, Travis Turbyfill got a fulltime position with the Hotshots when another member's girlfriend asked him to quit.

Turbyfill, 27, often worked with other Hotshots at Captain Crossfit, a warehouse filled with mats, obstacle courses, climbing walls and acrobatic rings near the firehouse. He would train in the morning and then return in the afternoon with his wife and kids.

Trainer Janine Pereira said she recently kidded Turbyfill for skipping workouts. His excuse was that he wanted to spend some quality time at Dairy Queen.

"He was telling me that it's because it was Blizzard week, and he was just going to eat a Blizzard every night," she said.

Tony Burris, another trainer, said he enjoyed watching Turby with his two daughters.

"Because he's this big, huge Marine, Hotshot guy, and he has two little girls, reddish, blonde curly hair, and they just loved their dad," he said.

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BILLY WARNEKE: 'DOING WHAT HE LOVED'

Billy Warneke, 25, and his wife, Roxanne, were expecting their first child in December, his grandmother, Nancy Warneke, told The Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, Calif. Warneke grew up in Hemet, Calif., along with his fellow Granite Mountain hotshot, Chris MacKenzie. He was a four-year Marine Corps veteran who served a tour in Iraq and had joined the hotshot crew in April, buying a property in Prescott, near where his sister lived, the newspaper reported.

Nancy Warneke said she called her sister after seeing the fire on the news.

"She said, 'He's gone. They're all gone,'" Nancy Warneke told The Press-Enterprise. "Even though it's a tragedy for the whole family, he was doing what he loved to do. He loved nature and was helping preserve nature."

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CLAYTON WHITTED: HE'D 'LIGHT IT UP'

Full of heart and determination, Clayton Whitted, 28, might not have been the biggest guy around, but he was among the hardest-working. His former Prescott High School coach, Lou Beneitone, said Whitted was a "wonderful kid" who always had a big smile on his face. Whitted played for the football team as an offensive and defensive lineman.

"He was a smart young man with a great personality, just a wonderful personality," said Beneitone. "When he walked into a room, he could really light it up."

Beneitone said Whitted loved being a firefighter and was well-respected among his crew. He says he ran into Whitted about two months ago and they shook hands and hugged, and talked about the upcoming fire season.

"I told him to be careful," Beneitone said.

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KEVIN WOYJECK: FOLLOWING IN HIS FATHER'S FOOTSTEPS

For 21-year-old Kevin Woyjeck, the fire station was always a second home. His father, Capt. Joe Woyjeck, is a nearly 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Keith Mora, an inspector with that agency, said Kevin often accompanied his dad to the station and on ride-alongs, and always intended to follow in his footsteps.

"He wanted to become a firefighter like his dad and hopefully work hand-in-hand," Mora said Monday outside of the fire station in Seal Beach, Calif., where the Woyjeck family lives.

Mora remembered the younger Woyjeck as a "joy to be around," a man who always had a smile on his face. He had been trained as an EMT and worked as an Explorer, which is a mentorship training program to become a professional firefighter.

"He was a great kid. Unbelievable sense of humor, work ethic that was not parallel to many kids I've seen at that age. He wanted to work very hard."

As he spoke, Mora stood before an American flag that had been lowered to half-staff. His own fire badge was covered with a black elastic band, a show of respect and mourning for those lost in the line of duty.

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GARRET ZUPPIGER: A RED BEARD, AND A SENSE OF HUMOR

Garret Zuppiger, 27, loved to be funny, said Tony Burris, a trainer at a gym where many of the Hotshots worked out.

Burris said the two bonded over their hyper-manly ginger facial hair.

"We both had a red beard and so we would always admire each other's beards," he said. "We also had a few conversations about beer."

Zuppiger's humor was evident on his blog where he wrote about his grandmother's one-eyed Chihuahua, his "best hair day ever" and a hike with his mother on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. There's also photos of a tongue-in-cheek project to build a "ski-chair," in which a living room recliner was placed atop two skis.

"Garret Zuppiger turns 25!" he wrote in a post several years ago. "Everyday is like a gift!!"

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Also among the 19 who died on Sunday:

— Joe Thurston, 32

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Associated Press reporters Raquel Maria Dillon in Seal Beach, Calif., Sue Manning in Los Angeles; and Felicia Fonseca and Hannah Dreier in Prescott contributed to this story.