The 19 firefighters killed battling an Arizona wildfire have been identified, with the youngest members of the highly trained team just 21 years old.
The firefighters were trapped when a wildfire in Prescott, Arizona, quickly spread and overtook their position. Investigators were left perplexed as to why the men weren’t able to retreat to a safe zone, and are still investigating the deaths as the fire rages on.
The first of the 19 firefighters killed were identified as Kevin Woyjeck, Chris MacKenzie, and Andrew Ashcraft. Woyjeck, 21, and MacKenzie, 30, were both originally from Southern California, NBC Los Angeles reported.
Juliann Ashcraft said she learned of her 29-year-old husband’s death by watching the news with her four children.
“They died heroes,” Ashcraft said. “And we’ll miss them. We love them.”
On Monday evening the city of Prescott released the names of the rest of the 19 firefighters killed: Anthony Rose, 23; Eric Marsh, 43; Robert Caldwell, 23; Clayton Whitted , 28; Scott Norris, 28; Dustin Deford, 24; Sean Misner, 26; Garret Zuppiger, 27; Travis Carter, 31; Grant McKee, 21; Travis Turbyfill, 27; JesseSteed, 36; Wade Parker, 22; Joe Thurston, 32; William Warneke, 25; and John Percin, 24.
On Monday, both President Obama and Senator John McCain issued public statements about the Arizona tragedy.
“Yesterday, nineteen firefighters were killed in the line of duty while fighting a wildfire outside Yarnell, Arizona,” Obama said. “They were heroes — highly-skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet.”
Obama noted that the federal government is already assisting after the tragedy, and is in close contact with state and local officials to provide further support. But he noted that on Monday, “Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters and all whose lives have been upended by this terrible tragedy.”
As the nation mourned the 19 firefighters killed in Arizona, others firefighters continued the battle against the blaze, which continued on uncontrolled for a fourth day. By Monday afternoon the fire destroyed more than 200 buildings in the town of Yarnell. It is described as “zero percent” contained.