Memorial for Arizona firefighter to be held in Hemet

Memorial for Arizona firefighter to be held in Hemet
Chris MacKenzie, 30, right, was one of 19 firefighters killed in Arizona on June 30. (CalFire)

A memorial service for one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters killed while battling a wildfire in Arizona will be held Saturday in Hemet.

Chris MacKenzie, 30, had just started his third season with the hotshot team and was a lead crew member when he was killed in the Yarnell Fire on June 30, according to Cal Fire.

The memorial service to celebrate his life and honor his service will be held in Hemet at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Ramona Bowl Ampitheatre at 27400 Ramona Bowl Road.

MacKenzie, who grew up in Hemet, started as a seasonal firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service in the San Jacinto National Forest and went on to serve on a helicopter crew for the Bureau of Land Management and the Mill Creek hotshots in the San Bernardino National Forest. A former captain, Aaron Stevens, invited him to apply to join the Arizona hotshot team, according to Cal Fire.

His mother, Lauri Goralski, told the Press Enterprise her son was determined man who lost 75 pounds his senior year of high school so he could snowboard and become a firefighter. He loved what he did, she said, and was confident even though he knew there was a chance something could happen to him.

MacKenzie is the son of retired Cal Fire Capt. Mike MacKenzie. He is survived by his father, mother, brother Aaron MacKenzie, stepmother Janice MacKenzie, and stepsisters Janae Gier and Jill Allison, according to Cal Fire.

The remains of MacKenzie and Kevin Woyjeck, 21, were flown back to Southern California Wednesday. Firefighters joined family of the two men to pay their respects during a Memorial Ramp Ceremony at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, Cal Fire said.

Hundreds of mourners gathered during the procession, led by Cal Fire and U.S. Forest Service vehicles, which transported MacKenzie’s body from Orange County back to Hemet, the Press Enterprise reported.

CDF Firefighters Local 2881 is in the process of establishing a donation site for the MacKenzie family, according to Cal Fire. To inquire about donating, email:

The families of MacKenzie and Kevin Woyjeck, 21, requested their sons be transported back as soon as possible, said Carroll Wills, communications director for the California Fire Foundation.

A memorial service for Woyjeck is being planned in Long Beach for July 19, said Inspector Anthony Akins, public information officer for the L.A. County Fire Department.

Three others on the Arizona crew also hailed from California. Billy Warneke, 25, also of Hemet, was buried in Arizona Wednesday, according to the Press Enterprise. Sean Misner, 26, will be transported by ground later this week, Wills said. Grant McKee, 21, will be buried in Arizona with his cousin Robert Caldwell, 23, according to Wills, but a private memorial for the cousins will be held July 20 in Newport Beach.

Thousands attended a ceremony in Prescott Valley on Tuesday in honor of all 19 firefighters who died together.



Twitter: @Sam_Schaefer