Fire brotherhood shows sea of support for fallen hotshots

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Hundreds of firefighters from around the nation and beyond formed a sea of blue, a sea of support following Tuesday’s memorial service to honor the 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots.

“We’re part of a brotherhood,” said Lt. Sam Friar of Dallas Fire-Rescue. “When one firefighter falls, no matter where they are, it’s family that has fallen.”

While many of the firefighters in attendance didn’t know the fallen firefighters personally, crews from New Mexico recall working alongside the hot shots at recent fires in their state.

"It's going to be hard. We are all on wildland teams as well, so when we go on deployments, they'll always come to mind. It's something you'll never forget," said Carl Schmidt of Santa Fe Fire.

For LA County Fire, the tragedy hits close to home. One of the firefighters killed, Kevin Woyjeck, was the son of LA County Fire Captain Joe Woyjeck. 

“He was a son who grew up in our fire station for 21 years,” said Chief Deputy John Tripp of LA County Fire. 

"A lot of people don't understand as firefighters, we live a third of our life in the fire house, so our kids spend their Christmases and birthdays and so forth, and Kevin got the bug to be a firefighter like his dad."

More than 200 firefighters and explorers attended the service. Woyjeck was a former LA County Fire explorer, himself.

“Even if he wasn’t employed with us at the time of his death, we’re going to treat him as though he was a firefighter for our department,” said Chief Deputy Tripp.

Meanwhile, firefighters from Carbondale, Colorado told 3TV the Yarnell Hill tragedy hits home for them. That state suffered the loss of 14 wildland firefighters who died while battling a wildfire on Storm King Mountain in 1994.

“These are our brothers,” said Pablo Herr of Carbondale Fire. “This is where we need to be in support of them and their families. It’s an honor to be here….these are men who gave everything.”

Some firefighters flew thousands of miles, representing New York and Canada.

“The world cares,” said Richard Smith. “These are fathers; these are brothers.”

“We’re all a brotherhood,” said Ed Schneyer of New York Wildfire and Incident Management Academy. "No matter what our names, what our colors, what state we're from, everybody works together."

"These 19 fallen paid the ultimate sacrifice, and we want to honor that," said Lt. Rob Lamoureux of Burnaby Fire in British Columbia.