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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 16th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 19

Fallen firefighter mourned in Santa Ynez


The “Nation’s Color” started the procession out of Santa Ynez Valley High School’s football stadium after a memorial service honoring fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots crew member Sean Misner.

California and Arizona flags were at half-staff with an American flag flying just a touch higher as a bagpipe procession led the solemn march onto the Santa Ynez Valley High School football field and track. Silence fell as first responders, from hotshots crew members to uniformed officers, filled row after row of white chairs behind Sean Misner’s family and friends.

The stands above the field were filled with tissue-holding, miniature flag-waving community members who came to help family and friends honor the life of the 26-year-old. The Santa Ynez Valley native was one of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots crew members killed in the Yarnell Hill fire on June 30.

The July 15 memorial service told the story of a soon-to-be father who loved football and who took a big step toward realizing his dreams when he became a member of the elite Prescott, Ariz.-based Granite Mountain Hotshots crew earlier this year. Misner moved to Prescott with his wife, Amanda—who is seven months pregnant—after making the crew.

Misner’s uncle, retired Prescott City Fire Division Chief Tim McElwee, told a crowd of 1,000 people that he saw Misner before the hotshots crew was called out on the Yarnell fire.

“He had the firebug,” McElwee said. “You could see it in his eyes; he was in the family business, and he was loving it.”

Misner’s grandfather, great-grandfather, uncles, and cousin were all firefighters. Darrell Willis, division chief of the Prescott City Fire Department Wildland Division, said you could tell firefighter blood ran deep in Misner’s veins.

“Sean was the real deal,” Willis told attendees.

He said Misner was a sponge, soaking up as much knowledge as he could, and had the same hardworking, committed attitude that every member of the crew did.

“They were unassuming, they came in the dark, did what they had to do, and left,” Willis said. “I have full confidence in the decisions that they made that night. … I would have followed them blindfolded.”

Dressed in Misner’s Santa Ynez High football jersey, Misner’s mother Tammy read aloud a letter she had written to her son that very morning. In the letter she said she remembered asking her son if he was afraid when he was called out to a fire, and he said no. She said she spoke with him on the phone before he was called out to Yarnell.

“I’m so glad to say that I got to say I’m proud of you, Bud, and I love you,” Tammy said. “Those were the last words I said to him.”

Ron, Misner’s father, stood next to Tammy, also dressed in sports clothes, and talked about how much his son loved sports—especially football on the very field where the memorial service was held.

“People have been asking us what they can do,” Ron said. “Grow up to the best of your ability.”

Misner’s uncle, Terry McElwee, is currently the Montecito Fire division chief. The Montecito Firefighters Charitable Foundation is establishing a fund to assist the families of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hot Shots.

Checks should be made out to the Montecito Firefighters Charitable Foundation. Donations meant for the Misner family should have “Sean Misner” noted on the memo line, while donations made to the 19 families should have “Nineteen Lost” noted on the memo line. Donations can be made in person at 595 San Ysidro Road in Montecito or sent by mail to P.O. Box 5881, Montecito, CA 93150. Contact the fire department for more information at 969-7762.

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