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William Warneke, Fallen Firefighter: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Billy Warneke, Yarnell Hill Fire

A massive wildfire tragically took the lives of 19 firefighters in the Yarnell Hill area of Arizona on Sunday. William Warneke, 25, was one among them. Here’s what you need to know about the fallen hero.

19 Firefighters Killed in Wildfire: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

"We just lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet" — Fire Chief Dan Fraijo.

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1. William Warneke was Member of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crew

Granite Mountain Hotshots, The Granite Mountain Hotshots, Yarnell Hill Fire

The Granite Mountain Hotshots


According to a press release from the North Tucson Firefighters Association, William “Billy” Warneke was a first year member of the firefighting Granite Mountain Hotshot crew in Prescott, Arizona.

His grandmother, Nancy Warneke, said she called her sister as soon as she heard news of the fire.

“She said, ‘He’s gone. They’re all gone,’” she 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.”


2. He Served Four Years in the United States Marine Corps

Yarnell Hill Fire
Warneke grew up in Hemet, California and s a child played war games and firemen with his brother, sister and friends. He graduated high school in 2001 and joined the U.S. Forest Service. Warneke was raised in a military family with his brother in the Navy and his sister in the Coast Guard. He enrolled in the Hemet High Junior ROTC Air Force and served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including a tour in Iraq.

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3. He Just Returned from a Wildfire in New Mexico Just Last Week

Arizona Wildfires, Arizona
It’s been an especially busy season for firefighters battling wildfires. Just last week, Warneke had just returned form a wildfire in New Mexico before he was called to combat the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona.


4. He Lived in Prescot with His High School Sweetheart

Prescott Arizona, Yarnell Hill Fire
The firefighter moved to Prescott Arizona two years ago and lived with his wife and high school sweetheart, Roxanne, who was a fellow Marine. He bought a mobile home in the town and was expecting his first child in December.

“He was so excited to have a place of his own,” his grandmother said.


5. His Family is Thankful for the Community’s Kindness

Yarnell Hill Fire Memorial

Nineteen American flags hang on a fence in Prescott after the firefighters lost their lives on Sunday. (Getty Images)


The fallen firefighter’s family asked for privacy but said it was thankful for the community’s prayers and kindness.

Granite Mountain Hotshots: Top 10 Facts You Need to Know

All nineteen firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire were members of the Prescott-based Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite team of wildfire specialists. Hotshot teams are like the Navy SEALs of firefighting.

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