Nancy and Jack Warneke of San Jacinto said they were concerned about their grandson, a firefighter with the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew, when they saw the Arizona fire on television Sunday night.

Nancy Warneke got a call about 10 p.m. Sunday from her sister, who lives near Prescott, Ariz.

“He's gone," her sister told her. 

Billy Warneke, 25, a Hemet native, was among the 19 firefighters killed as the evacuated town of Yarnell was ravaged by a wildfire.

Kevin Woyjeck, 21, of Seal Beach and Chris MacKenzie of Hemet were also killed in the fire.

Warneke, who was in ROTC in high school, joined the Marines and served one tour in Iraq. When he had completed his service, he got married and used the GI Bill to become a firefighter, his grandmother said. The Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew was his first fire job.

He and his wife, Roxanne, met in high school and were expecting their first child in December. They recently moved to Tucson to live near Roxanne's family, Nancy Warneke said, though he had been staying with his great-aunt near Prescott since April to be near the fire station.

“It’s hard to believe it’s all happened, but he died doing what he believed in,” his grandmother said. “We can be proud.”

When Warneke was young, he and his brother loved to play in the dirt with their trucks, she said. They would also play firemen when the grandparents baby-sat, Nancy Warneke said, and got out the hose as if they were putting out a fire. Billy Warneke’s brother is a Navy Seal in Coronado, Calif., and his sister was in the Coast Guard.

He loved the outdoors and wildlife, and he and his wife hoped to plant a garden at their new place, she said. He liked cooking and his grandmother’s zucchini bread, a few loaves of which are stashed away in her freezer.

“I guess I’ll find someone else to give them to,” she said.

Family members are on their way to Prescott. Nancy Warneke said she hasn’t slept or eaten much since she learned that her grandson had been killed.

“I’m just trying to keep everyone on even keel; I guess that’s what grandmas do,” she said.

Los Angeles police officers will wear mourning bands in memory of the 19 firefighters who died in the wildfire, according to a statement from Police Chief Charlie Beck.

“This is an unspeakable tragedy for the entire country and a grim reminder of the dangers that first responders face on a daily basis,” he said.

L.A. County firefighters are already wearing mourning bands in honor of Fire Capt. Janet Chatelain, who died June 23 after a battle with lung cancer, said county Fire Inspector Anthony Akins. Flags on all county buildings will fly at half-staff in honor of Woyjeck, the Seal Beach firefighter who died, according to an order from county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Akins said.

2012 Cronkite News profile of the team described a tightly knit unit that had never taken to fire shelters while fighting some of the West's toughest wild-land blazes. The team studied other fires in which crews had been overrun and killed by wildfires, even when taking cover in shelters. 

Officials lost radio contact with the crew at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, said Steve Skurja, assistant spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office. A helicopter crew spotted the bodies, he told The Times.

He said all of the firefighters had deployed their fire shelters -- an emergency measure when there is no escape.

“The fire was very aggressive. It just overtook them,” Skurja said.

ALSO:

Newly married in West Hollywood: 'We did it! Finally.'

Ex-L.A. sheriff's narcotics sergeant charged with theft in sting

 'Asian Wig Bandit,' who drives a BMW, prompts a $25,000 reward

Twitter: @Sam_Schaefer

Samantha.Schaefer@latimes.com