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Yarnell Hill Fire victims leave behind wives, children, fiancees

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PRESCOTT, AZ (CBS5) -

Who were these brave men who sacrificed their lives? We know they were all young men. Many lived in the Prescott area. They left behind mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, fiancees and children.

Many of the people learned the tragic news Sunday, but even 24 hours later, the gravity of the situation is still sinking in.

There wasn't a dry eye in Overflow Coffee in Chino Valley on Monday, as members of Manifest Youth Ministry remembered one of their most beloved members, 22-year-old Wade Parker.

"He grew up with my kids, very close to my kids," said Laura Kirk. She said she received a text message Sunday night telling her Parker was one of the 19 brave men who sacrificed their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire.

"I was waiting for the next text that said it was a mistake, it wasn't true, we messed up, but that text never came," Kirk said with tears in her eyes. She described Parker as a fun-loving daredevil who loved sports, his church and his fiancee, who he was supposed to marry in October.

"He would lay down his life for a friend and I think he lived for that. I think that's what he wanted to do. It was in his blood," Kirk said.

Another victim in the Yarnell Hill Fire was 29-year-old Andrew Ashcraft, a loving family man, who leaves behind a wife named Juliann and four young kids.

"We would watch Andrew and Juliann marry and have children," said Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. He said his daughter is a close friend of the Ashcrafts, and said he can only imagine what their family is now going through.

"Juliann was always concerned when he was fighting this fire, but he had always come home," Bennett said. "Seven, eight, later we get a call that this time he didn't come home."

"He just had that smile and that spark," said Lou Beneitone, speaking of 28-year-old Clayton Whitted. Beneitone coached football at Prescott High, and Whitted was one of his star linemen.

"The kids loved him, he was funny, humorous, but when it came down to getting serious, he got serious," Beneitone said.

When Beneitone heard the news Sunday night that Whitted was part of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew that died in the fire, he was devastated.

"It was very tough to hear," Beneitone said, fighting back tears.

Beneitone said he saw Whitted just a couple of months ago, and he was getting ready for what they knew would be a tough fire season.

"I shook his hand, hugged him and said, 'be careful out there,' and he said, 'I will, coach,'" Beneitone said.

"Scott was an exceptional man, wise beyond his years," said Jim Marnell of another member of the Hotshot crew, 28-year-old Scott Norris. Marnell said he worked for him in the off-season at his gun shop, Bucky O Neill Guns.

"When I finally woke up this morning, I thought I had dreamt of his demise, but quickly realized that it was reality," Marnell said.

He said Norris was witty and had an uncanny ability to relate with anyone he met, regardless of their age or background. And when it was time for him to go back to the Hotshot crew, he wished him well, never thinking of what he would be up against.

"We did say good luck to him, but we never expected him to be in any danger," Marnell said.

Kevin Woyjeck, 21, was from Seal Beach, CA, and followed in his father's footsteps.

Anthony Rose, 23, had worked for the Crown King Fire Department, and was expecting a baby in October.

Billy Warneke, 25, was from California, and married his high school sweetheart. They, too, were expecting a baby in December.

"He had wanted to get on the Hotshot crew in Prescott a year ago, but wasn't able to get on so he continued waiting and volunteering," said Jack Warneke, Billy Warneke's grandfather.

Sean Misner, 26, also leaves behind a pregnant wife; they chose the name Jaxon for their baby boy, due in September.

"He was always the guy you could confide in, you could tell him anything and he'd be there for you," said Jason Lambert, Misner's good friend.

Garret Zuppiger, 27, went to the University of Arizona and was extremely hard working and full of energy.

Jesse Steed, 36, was athletic and always concerned with others. He leaves behind a wife and two kids.

"He was always compassionate to people around him, and still with just a clown-like demeanor and definitely a mischievous streak," said Garic Hayes, Steed's good friend.

The list goes on, each story as inspiring as the last, each man leaving behind a legacy of faith, family, and sacrifice.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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