Kevin Woyjeck, Seal Beach firefighter 

killed iArizona wildfire, 

wanteto follow in father's footsteps


Delores Woyjeck holds a photo of her grandson. Kevin Woyjeck, a seasonal fire Explorer with Los Angeles County Fire Department. He was among the 19 firefighters that died Sunday battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in in Prescott, Arizona. The photo was taken a few years ago when he was around 18 years-old, she said. (Photo by Sean Hiller/Press Telegram, Los Angeles News Group) (Sean Hiller)

07/01/2013 06:47:33 PM PDT


SEAL BEACH - Kevin Woyjeck, one of 19 firefighters who died Sunday in the fast-moving Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona, 

grew up around the fire stations of Los Angeles County while aspiring to follow his father's path in the fire service.

"We come from a family of firefighters. He knew from a young age, that's what he was going to do," said Kevin's

father, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Joe Woyjeck said at the family's home in Seal Beach.

The elder Woyjeck is a 33-year veteran of the fire service.

"It's a dangerous job. We've all been hurt. You just hope you don't get the big hurt," said Joe Woyjeck, who is

currently posted at the Los Angeles County Fire Department's station in Bellflower.

Monday, an American flag was draped from the second floor of the balcony of the Woyjeck's' home. The Stars 

and Stripes and a red firefighters' helmet served as a memorial to the younger Woyjeck, 21, who died in Arizona 

after spending much of his youth in preparation for a career in the fire department.

Woyjeck died while responding alongside his fellow members of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crew, a specialized 

unit of wildland firefighters. Powerful winds that changed directions while gusting at 40 mph to 50 mph trapped 

crew members around 3 p.m. Sunday. The spread of the deadly fire was so rapid the blaze grew from 200 acres

to about 2,000 in mere hours.

The blaze grew to cover more than 13 square miles and had also destroyed about 200 homes and structures in the

Yarnell area by Monday afternoon, according to authorities. The town of Yarnell is about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix.

Two of the other fallen hot shots also grew up in Southern California. Firefighters Chris Mackenzie and Billy Warneke 

both grew up in the Riverside County city of Hemet.

Several firefighters visited the Woyjeck's home Monday to offer their condolences. Visiting firefighters wore black 

bands around the badges as a traditional sign of mourning.

As the father of a fallen firefighter received hugs from friends, he said, "I have a tight family, and I have a tight

fire family." Kevin Woyjeck, who graduated from Los Alamitos High School where he was a popular member of the 

track-and-field team, also spent time as a Seal Beach junior lifeguard and studied fire and rescue techniques at 

Los Angeles County Fire Department Explorer Post 9, based in Cerritos.

The younger Woyjeck also earned an EMT certificate and responded to emergency calls for Care Ambulance Service

before becoming a wildland firefighter.

Engineer Scott Miller recalled that Kevin Woyjeck, while at the Explorer Post, earned the privilege of riding along

with firefighters to calls and could often be counted upon to rally the others at atraining session or help another

aspiring firefighter achieve career goals.

"He was just that leader, and (had) this willingness to help others," Engineer Scott Miller said. "He even helped one

of the other explorers get a job with Care Ambulance."

A wildfire burns homes in the Glenn Ilah area near Yarnell, Ariz. on Sunday, June 30, 2013. An Arizona fire chief says the wildfire that killed 19 members of his crew near the town was moving fast and fueled by hot, dry conditions. The fire started with a lightning strike on Friday and spread to 2,000 acres on Sunday amid triple-digit temperatures. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski) (David Kadlubowski)

Outside of the firefighting community, Kevin Woyjeck's plans to become a firefighter were well-known

to those who knew him at Los Alamitos High School, where he competed as a pole vaulter.

"He wanted to follow in his dad's footsteps," former teammate Russell Nighswonger, 20, said.

Nighswonger and Los Alamitos High track and field coach Nathan Howard both described Woyjeck as a

"happy-go-lucky" type, but also a determined competitor.

"He was a talented, motivated athlete who worked toward his goal,but at the same time, a free spirit.

He was a good kid. We never had any problem with him," Howard said.

Kevin Woyjeck joined the Granite Mountain Hotshots, which is part of the fire department serving Prescott,

Ariz., in order to gain the wildland firefighting experience that he thought would be valuable for his desired

job in the Los Angeles County Fire Department, his father said. 

He is survived by his parents and a brother, 19, and sister, 15.

Fire Captain Joe Woyjeck works here in Bellflower and is in charge of the fire museum  He has 

spoken at our meetings and has hosted us at the fire Museum in Bellflower.  He and his wife

have been talking about going to Los Mochis with us.

Please pray for the Woyjeck Family and GOD Bless them all !