Local

Jul 11, 2013 2:25 AM by Rebecca Taylor

Final farewell for Firefighter Warneke in Marana

MARANA - A final farewell was held Wednesday for William "Billy" Warneke, the lone local firefighter killed by the Yarnell Hill blaze.

His remains were flown in from Prescott aboard a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter, then placed on atop a fire engine to lead a procession of first responders to his final resting place.

Dozens of people lined the route to pay their respects.

Family and friends described Warneke as selfless, confident, and heroic. And the 25-year old certainly fit the bill: the native Californian spent four years in the Marine Corps, including a tour of Iraq. He studied Fire Science a Pima College joining the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew in April.

He's survived by his wife, Roxanne, who's expecting their first child in December.

With two National Guard choppers flying over-head, a procession of fire trucks was greeted by community members along their route.

Many were youth holding American flags and banners.

"It shows respect to our town and the families of those poor firefighters, said Akayln Bomsberger who showed up to watch the procession. "I can't imagine how they must feel."

"It seems so sad, someone has died fighting for us, for Arizona," said Destiny Hessel, "And I just want to show respect to the family and their fellow firefighters."

Boy Scout Chandler Dinn saluted firefighter Warneke's casket as it passed.

"I'm in Boy Scout troop 209 and I do this anytime I salute the flag," said Dinn.

As the procession arrived at Marana Mortuary it passed beneath a flag-draped arch of ladders extending from two fire trucks.

While the media was not invited to film the service itself, those in attendance describe it as moving and serious, a heartfelt tribute to a firefighter and Marine. And closure for a community of first responders both on duty and off.

Crystal Bomsberger watch the procession with her nieces.

"Thank you to all of our fellow heroes," she said.

Warneke and his wife recently bought a home and four acres in Avra Valley.

They were in the middle of remodeling when he got the call to battle the Yarnell Hill Fire.

The community is coming together to finish the project.

Anyone looking to volunteer can contact Dan Klement at 520-979-2658 or dkntff@aol.com

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