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.
1. William Warneke was Member of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crew
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
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.
3. He Just Returned from a Wildfire in New Mexico Just Last Week
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
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
The fallen firefighter’s family asked for privacy but said it was thankful for the community’s prayers and kindness.