Volunteers helping the widow of a fallen firefighter

Billy Warneke and his wife Roxanne.
Billy Warneke and his wife Roxanne.

Local firefighters and other volunteers are teaming up to help a widow of one of the 19 wildland firefighters killed earlier this month in the Yarnell Hill Fire.

25 year old Billy Warneke, of Avra Valley, died on the firelines along with 18 other members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew based in Prescott. He leaves behind his pregnant wife, Roxanne, and a house that was in the process of being remodeled.

Roxanne is expecting their first child in December and while she deals with the overwhelming grief of losing her husband, a group of firefighters want to help ease her burdens. The Warneke's bought a foreclosed mobile home earlier this year; it was their dream home on 4.5 acres in Avra Valley. Billy knew it needed a lot of work and was in the process of remodeling it. His tools are still sitting where he left last week when he was dispatched to the Yarnell Hill Fire.

When fellow firefigthers heard about the Warneke's story, they didn't hesitate to help but they're just getting started on what's going to be a major remodeling job, "Bill had been tearing things apart," says Dan Klement who is a Golder Ranch Fire captain and president of the North Tucson Firefighters Association, "and he had found some mold and she walked me around the property and told me all the things Bill wanted to do and I finally looked at her and said, 'we got this. Let us take this.'"

Firefighters are a tight knit group of people. When news began to spread that 19 of them were killed in the line of duty earlier this month, and that one of them lived in southern Arizona, Klement says he knew right away he wanted to do something to help, "all the local surrounding fire departments are coming together. It's a great way for firefighters to grieve because we're all grieving. This is a very tremendous loss to all of us and a lot of our firefighters have worked with these guys, trained with these guys, so to come out and help, it's a healing process for us too."

Klement says there's a lot of work to be done. First and foremost, the whole house will more than likely have to be gutted out because of the mold. Klement says they'll also be installing new windows, plumbing, electrical wires, landscaping, and a special sitting place in the yard with a flag pole. A former Marine, Billy Warneke was a very proud and patriotic man, "we want to put up a big flag pole out there," says Klement, "with block benches and a patio and maybe a rose garden behind it and a plaque so as the child grows up, it's got a place to remember dad. Nothing can bring him back but we can sure honor him."

If you would like to get involved with helping out in the Warneke remodeling project, whether it's hands on or a monetary donation, you can contact Dan Klement directly by e-mail or phone. His e-mail is dkntff@aol.com and his phone number is (520) 979-2658. Klement is also encouraging businesses to get involved by donating appliances and/or building materials.

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