Two fallen firefighters have Tucson ties

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Two fallen firefighters have Tucson ties

By Rikki Mitchell. CREATED Jul 1, 2013

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV/AP) - Two of the 19 fallen firefighters who died Sunday battling the Yarnell Hill Fire had connections to Tucson.

According to the president of the North Tucson Firefighter's Association, 25-year-old Bill Warneke lived in Avra Valley, and was among the 19 killed.

Officials with Pima Community College say Warneke and fellow crew member Garret Zuppiger were graduates of PCC.

Zuppiger graduated in 2006 with an Arizona General Education Curriculum-Arts degree in Liberal Arts.

Warneke earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Fire Science in 2012.

Warneke was a first year member of the elite Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew.

He is survived by his wife Roxanne who is pregnant with the couple's first child.

She is expecting her child in December, his grandmother, Nancy Warneke, told The Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, Calif.

Warneke grew up in Hemet, Calif., along with his fellow Granite Mountain hotshot, Chris MacKenzie.

He was a four-year Marine Corps veteran who served a tour in Iraq and had joined the hotshot crew in April, buying a property in Prescott, near where his sister lived, the newspaper reported.

Nancy Warneke said she called Billy's sister after seeing the fire on the news.

"She said, 'He's gone. They're all gone,"' Nancy Warneke told The Press-Enterprise. "Even though it's a tragedy for the whole family, he was doing what he loved to do. He loved nature and was helping preserve nature."

The family is being assisted by local firefighters and with the Chief Officers of the Prescott Fire Department, and the incident management team on scene.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Rikki Mitchell

Rikki Mitchell

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Rikki Mitchell is a proud University of Arizona grad and joined the KGUN9 team after graduation. Rikki reports for the evening newscasts.