The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 2, 2013

Arizona 'Hotshots' lived the meaning of the word

(Continued)

Andrew Ashcraft, 29, another Prescott High graduate, would bring his four children to the Captain Crossfit daycare, Pereira said.

"He'd come in in the early morning and do a workout, and then, to support his wife, he'd do one again," she said. "He'd carry her around sometimes and give her a kiss in front of all his guys."

Other members of the group were just beginning families.

Sean Misner, 26, leaves behind a wife who is seven months pregnant, said Mark Swanitz, principal of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in Santa Barbara County, where Misner graduated in 2005. Marine Corps veteran Billy Warneke, 25, and his wife, Roxanne, were expecting their first child in December, his grandmother, Nancy Warneke, told The Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside.

At 43, crew superintendent Eric Marsh was by far the oldest member of the group. An avid mountain biker who grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, Marsh became hooked on firefighting while studying biology at Arizona State University, said Leanna Racquer, the ex-wife of Marsh's cousin.

In April 2012, Marsh let reporters from the ASU Cronkite News Service observe one of the crew's training sessions. That day, they were playing out the "nightmare scenario" — surrounded by flames, with nothing but a thin, reflective shelter between them and incineration.

"If we're not actually doing it, we're thinking and planning about it," Marsh said.

During that exercise, one of the new crew members "died."

"It's not uncommon to have a rookie die," Marsh told the news service. "Fake die, of course."

On Monday, more than 1,000 people crowded into the bleachers and spilled onto the gymnasium floor at the Prescott campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The crowd stood for more than a minute as firefighters in uniform walked in.

State Rep. Matt Salmon said the Hotshots had made the ultimate sacrifice: "They gave their lives for their friends."

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