LOS ALAMITOS (CNS) – The bodies of two firefighters with Southern California roots who were killed while battling an Arizona wildfire were returned to the Southland today and placed in hearses during a mostly silent and somber ceremony in Los Alamitos.
The “Memorial Ramp Ceremony,” coordinated in part by the California Fire Foundation’s Last Alarm Service Team, was held at the Joint Forces Training Base for 21-year-old Seal Beach native Kevin Woyjeck and 30-year-old Christopher MacKenzie.
MacKenzie, who was raised in the San Jacinto Valley, graduated from Hemet High School in 2001.
The flag-draped caskets carrying the firefighters were brought to Los Alamitos aboard a U.S. Air Force C-130 from Prescott, Ariz. One at a time, their caskets were wheeled from the aircraft to waiting hearses, where relatives and friends gathered around them and placed their hands on the flags – - some leaning over to kiss them.
They will be escorted from the base by firefighters en route to mortuaries in preparation for funeral services.
Woyjeck will be taken to Forest Lawn in Long Beach. His memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, beginning with a service at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, followed by interment at Forest Lawn.
MacKenzie will be taken to the Miller Jones Mortuary in Hemet, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Services for MacKenzie will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Ramona Bowl, 27400 Ramona Bowl Road, Hemet.
The two were among 19 firefighters with the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew, an elite wildland firefighting unit, who died near Yarnell, Ariz., June 30 in the worst wildland firefighting loss in the U.S. since the 1933 Griffith Park Fire in Los Angeles, where 29 firefighters were killed.
Woyjeck was the son of Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Joe Woyjeck. He was a former member of the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Explorer Post 9, and worked with Care Ambulance Service in Southern California.
MacKenzie started his career as a seasonal firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service, and served on the Tahquitz crew in the San Jacinto National Forest. He then served on a helicopter crew for the Bureau of Land Management and the Mill Creek hotshots in the San Bernardino National Forest. He was invited to apply to the Granite Mountain hotshot crew by Aaron Stevens, one of his former captains, and had just started his third season as a full-time employee with the Prescott Fire Department as a lead crew member, according to Cal Fire.
The California Emergency Management Agency and the state National Guard were also coordinating the ceremony.
A memorial fund for the Woyjeck family has been established at the F&A Federal Credit Union, account number 177222-2625.
Woyjeck is survived by his parents Joe and Anna, his brother Bobby and sister Maddy.