Generous, daring and humorous: Each had a remarkable quality

2013-07-03T00:00:00Z Generous, daring and humorous: Each had a remarkable qualityThe Associated Press The Associated Press
July 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Editor's note: Stories on the other 16 firefighters were in Tuesday's Star.

PRESCOTT - Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott, were killed Sunday when a wind-blown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix. It was the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since 9/11. Fourteen of the victims were in their 20s. Here are some of their stories:

GARRET ZUPPIGER: A RED BEARD, SENSE OF HUMOR

Garret Zuppiger, 27, loved to be funny, said Tony Burris, a trainer at a gym where many of the hotshots worked out.

Burris said the two bonded over their manly ginger facial hair.

"We both had a red beard and so we would always admire each other's beards," he said. "We also had a few conversations about beer."

Zuppiger's humor was evident on his blog, where he wrote about his grandmother's one-eyed Chihuahua, his "best hair day ever" and a hike with his mother on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. There also are photos of a tongue-in-cheek project to build a "ski-chair," in which a living room recliner was placed atop two skis.

"Garret Zuppiger turns 25!" he wrote in a post several years ago. "Everyday is like a gift!!"

Zuppiger graduated in May 2008 from the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management, according to a UANews article. It says he transferred to the UA from Pima Community College in the summer of 2006 and studied business economics at Eller College with an interest in finance.

In 2006, Zuppiger worked as a receptionist and moved up in the Office of Student Computing Resources, the article says.

GRANT MCKEE: GIVING NATURE

Grant McKee, 21, loved to give things away.

"Even as a child, I'd ask him where things were, and he'd say, 'Oh, such and such liked it.' And sometimes it really cost a lot! But he'd say, 'Oh, he liked it so much,' " said his grandmother, Mary Hoffmann. "So on his birthday, I started to say, 'I hope you're going to keep this!' " she said.

McKee's cousin, Robert Caldwell, also was a "hotshot" and also was killed Sunday.

"I had four grandchildren, but Grant was the sweetest, most giving nature of any of my grandkids," Hoffman said. "We used to think he was a little angel."

McKee's mother said Grant was training to be an emergency medical technician and only intended to work with the hotshots for the summer.

During EMT training, he would ask for extra shifts at the emergency room. And because his superiors liked him, they would give them to him, Laurie McKee said.

"Grant was one of the most likable people you could ever meet," she said.

JOE THURSTON: DARING AND DETERMINED

Back home in Cedar City, Utah, Joe Thurston, 32, used to go to an area reservoir with friends and promptly show how fearless he could be. "He was definitely one of the daredevil types," longtime friend Scott Goodrich told the Salt Lake Tribune. "We went to Quail (Creek) Reservoir, and we'd be finding 40- to 50-foot cliffs that people would be scared to jump off. He would just show up and be front-flipping off of them."

He brought this bold streak to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

"He had all the qualities that a firefighter would need to possess," E.J. Overson, another friend, told the Salt Lake City newspaper. "He was service-oriented, very caring and willing to do some things that many others would say, 'I don't want to get involved.' "

"He was one of the best guys I ever met," Goodrich said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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