Originally Published: May 25, 2017 5:58 a.m.
The father of one of 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots was honored Tuesday night that the City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to entrust the Los Angeles County Fire Museum with two of the buggies his son and his comrades used when battling wildfires in this and neighboring states.
“These buggies are very sacred,” declared Joe Woyjeck who with his Granite Mountain Hotshot son, Kevin, were regular volunteers with the museum. Woyjeck is now a museum board member.
At a pricetag of $25,000, the museum purchased the two buggies, one of them council members and firefighters alike agreed should eventually find a permanent home in the city’s own museum to honor the fallen heroes who died the summer of 2013 fighting a wildfire in Yarnell. In the meantime, Woyjeck was clear the Prescott-bound buggie will be preserved as it was on the Hotshots final days through the museum’s efforts. One of the buggies will be a museum exhibit, complete with other items, photographs and materials intended to honor the Hotshots’ devotion to duty and final sacrifice fighting their last blaze.
Yarnell opened a memorial to the firefighters that offers visitors a chance to trace the final footsteps of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, only one of who survived that day. Families of some of those Hotshots, as well as civic leaders and fellow firefighters, including some council members, have expressed a desire to build a local museum that pays homage to this group, the only one in the nation to be attached to a local municipality.
Firefighter Dan Bates spoke to support the council’s decision that he believes honors the Hotshots because it was within those white buggies with the red trim where these men bonded in friendship and a camaraderie that sustained them through the turbulent travails of their calling.
“They’re a great reminder of the great things these Hotshots did,” Bates said.
He said it was a big day for the Hotshot families and their firefighter brethren when these buggies returned to their Prescott station.
The city deemed the buggies to be surplus property, and the Los Angeles County Fire Museum was the sole bidder for these two vehicles. The contract of purchase specifies that one of the buggies is to remain in Prescott.
City Council member Jean Wilcox said she wants one of the buggies to be placed in Prescott when the city has its own wildland fire museum that would honor the Hotshots.
Woyjeck said such a museum would do his “heart good” and could not think of a better place to exhibit that buggy than in a state-of-the-art facility where his son and his comrades were stationed.
“It’s time for us to work on building that museum,” Wilcox said.
On behalf of a constituent, council member Jim Lamerson asked whether or not one of the buggies might be kept in Yarnell and used to escort tourists to the memorial site. He admitted he was not in favor, but needed to pose the question. The answer was swift.
“I think that would be a horrible idea,” Woyjeck said, explaining the museum’s intent in purchasing the buggies was to retain them in the condition they were on that fateful day.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to sell for $228,000 the back lot of the former Granite Mountain Hotshots fire station as surplus property to the BOSHCAS Revocable Trust.