Kevin Woyjeck was one of the youngest of the 19 firefighters killed in the uncontrollable Yarnell Hill Fire that is devastating central Arizona. He and the rest of the Granite Mountain Hotshots made up an elite crew of specialists designed to control forest fires, and they gave their lives to protect the small town of Yarnell and its residents.
Here is what you need to know about this remarkable young man:
1. He Was From California
Woyjeck, along with two of his follow Hotshots, was originally from Southern California. The Los Angeles Times reports that he is from Seal Beach, California, located between Long Beach and Newport in the outskirts of Los Angeles.
According to the article he got his start in firefighting as “a Fire Explorer, an L.A. County Fire Department mentorship and training program.”
2. He Was Only 21
Woyjeck, who was only 21 years old, was among the youngest Hotshots to be killed on Sunday when they became overwhelmed by the fast-moving fire. The average age of the group is reportedly just 22 years old.
3. His Father is a Firefighter
It seems that Kevin was following in his father’s footsteps. Captain Joe Woyjeck, Kevin’s father, is the fire captain for Los Angeles County.
4. He Helped People as an Paramedic
Before moving to Arizona to join the fire department, Woyjeck served as a paramedic for both Los Angeles and Organ counties.
5. Only the Most Elite Can Make a Hotshot Crew
The Hotshots are like the Navy SEALs of firefighters. Inter-agency Hotshot Crews are groups that specialize in going into wildfire areas on foot and removing things from the fire’s path to prevent the spread and growth of the fire.
The role of the Hotshot is described as:
The name was in reference to being in the hottest part of fires. Their specialty is wildfire suppression, but they are sometimes assigned other jobs, including search and rescue and disaster response assistance. Hotshots not busy fighting fire will also work to meet resource goals on their home units through thinning, prescribed fire implementation, habitat improvement or trail construction projects.
Crews often need to hike many miles to get to the areas where they will be working, carry all of their supplies on their back, and often work over 12 hours a day.