LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A local couple grieving the loss of their heroic son, killed last month fighting an Arizona wildfire, have returned home to a surprise volunteers hope will lift their spirits.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Joe Woyjeck accompanied his 21-year-old son’s body on a cargo plane back to Southern California on Wednesday. Kevin Woyjeck was one of 19 hotshot firefighters killed in the fast-moving Yarnell Hill blaze June 30.
While the Woyjecks were in Arizona to retrieve Kevin’s body, the captain’s co-workers, led by Battalion Chief Ken Wiles, made some improvements to the family home.
“I said, whoa, there’s new grass. Wait, there’s all new grass. There’s all new flowers. There’s new lights there’s new trees, what happened to my house?” Joe Woyjeck told CBS2’s Jeff Nguyen.
About 80 firefighters spent 60 hours on the secret project.
Family friends pitched in, including Edgar Robleto, who sent his landscaping company over.
“The grass is brand new. All the planters have been dug out and there is new lighting in it,” Wiles said.
Inside, the entire house was repainted from floor to ceiling, and all of the kitchen cabinets and floors redone.
Kevin’s mother, Anna Woyjeck, said the gesture was touching.
“Since this has happened, we don’t go to bed. We dread going to bed because we just lay in bed and cry,” she said.
Neighbor Sandy Wing volunteered because Joe Woyjeck, she said, is always the first person to lend others in their tight-knit community a hand.
“Joe would always come over and bring us tools and fix things. He would help anybody out. He would do anything for anybody at any time,” she said.
The Woyjecks want to thank the countless strangers who gave their time, money and materials.
“I’m hoping they’ll come by. If they were helping they know where I live,” Joe Woyjeck said.
“Let us give you a hug and thank you in person.”
The Yarnell Hill Fire in central Arizona that claimed Kevin’s life killed five Southland natives.
Chris MacKenzie and Billy Warneke, both 21, were originally from Hemet.
Grant McKee, also 21, grew up in Costa Mesa.
Andrew Ashcraft, 29, had lived in Orange and Garden Grove.
The sole survivor of the tragedy, 21-year-old Brendan McDonough, is from Oceanside.