HEMET (CBSLA.com) — Friends and family are mourning the loss of two Hemet High School graduates killed Sunday while battling a wildfire in Arizona.
Christopher MacKenzie, 30, and 25-year-old William Warneke were among the 19 firefighters who died fighting the Yarnell Fire in Central Arizona. Both men were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew based out of Prescott, Arizona.
Warneke served in the Marines and even as a child, dreamed of becoming a firefighter.
“It was as early as six-years-old that he and his brother and cousin would get together and play like they were firefighters,” said his grandfather, Jack Warneke.
Warneke’s wife is expected to deliver the couple’s first child in December, according to his aunt.
At the home of Christopher MacKenzie’s mother, Laurie Goralski, friends and family gathered to mourn.
“He had a lot of friends and he was very important to them, and he’s just going to be so missed, by everybody,” said Goralski.
MacKenzie was in Hemet two weeks ago to serve as best man in a friend’s wedding and to help his mother, who had undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor.
“It’s going to be a lot different without him, that’s for sure,” said Alex Fulford-Brown, MacKenzie’s friend of 25 years, who said the two were like brothers.
“That’s been the hardest part is talking to his friends,” she said. “Because they’re just so heartbroken that they’re not going to have Chris in their life anymore.”
MacKenzie was on the football team at Hemet High School and graduated in 2001. He joined the U.S. Forest Service in 2004, and had moved to Prescott two years ago.
Firefighters in Hemet have called for an emergency meeting to discuss help for the men’s families.
Seal Beach native, 21-year-old Kevin Woyjeck, was also killed in the wildfire.