During a press event last week in Scottsdale to promote the release of “Only the Brave” — the story of the Yarnell Hill Fire in Prescott that killed 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters — two former Granite Mountain crew members recalled Marana’s William Warneke, one of the 19.
Pat McCarty walked into the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew quarters one early summer day in 2013.
He had quit Prescott’s elite wildlands firefighting unit the year before to join the Prescott Fire Department’s structure side. But every once in awhile he would wander over and chat up his former colleagues.
There was a new face among the crew that day, 25-year-old William “Billy” Warneke from Marana. Warneke was lifting huge equipment packs and hauling them to the buggies, packing for the crew’s next call.
“He was carrying a ton of stuff, trying to get the buggies ready to go,” McCarty recalled. “He’s carrying all this stuff and there’s a lot of guys just hanging out because it didn’t have to be done right then. While everyone else is having a little downtime, there’s a job to be done and he’s going to get it done right then.”
McCarty remembered admiring the Marine veteran’s sense of duty, a trait that fellow Granite Mountain Hotshots member Brendan McDonough also respected.
“He just had an intense sense of selfless service to so many and to be there for others and to stand in front of something and to protect the communities that we served and we loved,” said McDonough, the lone survivor of the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013.
Warneke, who had joined the Prescott crew in April 2013, was among the 19 Granite Mountain firefighters killed in Prescott’s Yarnell Hill Fire, the largest loss of firefighters since 9/11. He was buried in the veterans section of the Marana Mortuary and Cemetery two weeks later.
He left behind a wife, Roxanne, who was pregnant at the time with the couple’s first child. She has since remarried.
After her husband’s death, firefighters from around the region pitched in to help Roxanne finish renovating the couple’s home in Avra Valley.