“Supe” Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) leads the Granite Mountain Hotshots up the trail at Yarnell Hills–including, generally in this order: Travis Carter (Scott Foxx), Dustin Deford (Ryan Busch), Garret Zuppiger (Brandon Bunch), Andrew Ashcraft (Alex Russell), Wade Parker (Ben Hardy), Scott Norris (producer Thad Luckinbill), Anthony Rose (Jake Picking), Travis Turbyfill (Geoff Stults), Chris MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch), Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), Joe Thurston (Matthew Van Wettering), Kevin Woyjeck (Michael McNulty), Grant McKee (Sam Quinn), Billy Warneke (Ryan Jason Cook), John Percin, Jr. (Nicholas Jenks), Sean Misner (Kenny Miller), Robert Caldwell (Dylan Kenin), Clayton Whitted (Scott Haze), Jesse Steed (James Badge Dale) in Columbia Pictures’ ONLY THE BRAVE, THE TRUE STORY OF THE GRANITE MOUNTAIN HOTSHOTS.
“Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) berates Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) during training in Prescott National Forest in Columbia Pictures’ ONLY THE BRAVE, THE TRUE STORY OF THE GRANITE MOUNTAIN HOTSHOTS.
Grant McKee and the tree he carved as a tribute for his son, Grant who was one of the 19 Prescott Firefighters that died in the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona in 2013. Grant’s nephew also died in the fire. The tree that Grant and his son used to climb around on in the yard will be on display in a Prescott Mall in the future. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)
One of several little heads that Grant McKee carved in a tree as a tribute for his son, Grant who was one of the 19 Prescott Firefighters that died in the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona in 2013. Grant’s nephew also died in the fire. The tree that Grant and his son used to climb around on in the yard will be on display in a Prescott Mall in the future. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)
“Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) and Fire Chief Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges) in Columbia Picturs’ ONLY THE BRAVE, THE TRUE STORY OF THE GRANITE MOUNTAIN HOTSHOTS.
“Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) and Amanda Marsh (Jennifer Connelly) in Columbia Pictures’ ONLY THE BRAVE, THE TRUE STORY OF THE GRANITE MOUNTAIN HOTSHOTS.
“Only the Brave” star Josh Brolin clowns with Bobby Woyjeck and his wife Amanda at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. Bobby and his brother Hot Shot Kevin Woyjeck grew up in Seal Beach. (Photo courtesy of Joe Woyjeck)
Hot Shot Kevin Woyjeck of Seal Beach, left, is portrayed by actor Michael McNulty in the film “Only the Brave.” (Photo courtesy of Joe Woyjeck)
Former Los Angeles County Fire Explorer Kevin Woyjeck, right, with his father Los Angeles County Fire captain Joe Woyjeck.
PRESCOTT VALLEY, AZ – JULY 9: A woman touches the photo of Grant McKee during a memorial service honoring 19 fallen firefighters at Tim’s Toyota Center July 9, 2013 in Prescott Valley, Arizona. The 19 firefighters, of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew, died battling the fast-moving wildfire on June 30. (Photo by Michael Chow-Pool/Getty Images)
A photo of Hotshot firefighter Grant McKee hangs on a fence outside the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew fire station, Tuesday, July 2, 2013 in Prescott, Ariz. McKee was one of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott, who were killed Sunday when a windblown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix. It was the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since 9/11. Fourteen of the victims were in their 20s. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
An undated photo of Grant McKee while on Newport Harbor High School’s wrestling team.
Grant Scott McKee couldn’t help but cry.
The Costa Mesa resident, along with other parents and first responders, was watching actors portray a group of firefighters overtaken by flames in one of the deadliest U.S. wildfires in recent memory during a private screening last week of ‘Only The Brave’ in Tempe, Ariz.
One of the film’s minor characters is McKee’s son, Grant Quinn McKee, 21, a former Newport Harbor High School student and wrestler and member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a unit of the Prescott, Ariz. Fire Department trained to fight wildfires.
McKee had been in the unit for about a year when he and 18 of his fellow firefighters were killed on June 30, 2013 trying to battle the Yarnell Hill Fire, northwest of Phoenix. Only one member, Brendan McDonough, survived.
“The film was very well made,” said Grant McKee, who this year found his own way to memorialize his son and the other Hotshots, including his 23-year-old nephew Robert Caldwell.
“It’s about a group of people that are working for one thing and that one thing is to help other people.”Opening nationwide on Friday, Oct. 20, the film tells the story of the Hotshots, from their training and friendships to their struggles and personal lives.
The movie boasts an all-star cast, with Josh Brolin starring as Eric Marsh, leader of the Hotshots, alongside Jeff Bridges, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly. Actor Sam Quinn portrays Grant Quinn McKee.
Kevin Woyjeck, 21, a Seal Beach native, also died fighting the fire. His parents, Joe and Anna Woyjeck, said they had felt anxious about the film for years, worrying the events of the fire would be sensationalized.
“Typically, firefighting movies are not close to reality,” said Joe Woyjeck, who recently retired as a captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Woyjeck said he and his wife attended the screening and thought the movie captured what firefighters do.
“I tried to watch as a dad who lost his son, as a fire captain, and as a member of the general public,” he said. ”The movie doesn’t dwell on how the men died but how they lived. It’s a story about camaraderie and brotherhood.”
Michael McNulty, who portrays Kevin Woyjeck in the movie, consulted with the family about his personality and how he carried himself. Based on that, McNulty wore Kaenon sunglasses, a Los Angeles Angels baseball cap and a G-shock watch in the film, Joe Woyjeck said.
Last year, Woyjeck was honored when a stretch of one of America’s busiest interchanges, where the I-405 meets the 22 and I-605, was named Kevin Woyjeck Memorial Highway.
For McKee, the most heartbreaking scene is when Brolin’s character is yelling at a plane overhead while the Hotshots crew is surrounded by flames on three sides and are breaking out their fire shelters, devices that look like foil tents, used by wildland firefighters as a last resort when escape isn’t possible.
“He yells out ‘Drop!’ and they don’t drop anything and they just keep flying over the top of them,” he said. “The ending is really harsh.”
The fast-moving fire overran the crew and cut off their evacuation route, eliminating any chance of them reaching a safety zone, a state forestry division report said.
“The crew was deploying their fire shelters close together in a small area when the fire overtook them,” the report said. “Temperatures exceeded 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit as the fire swept through the site.”
Anna Woyjeck said she was “on the fence” about seeing the movie.
“I knew I would sit there sobbing, and I did,” she said. “I already knew how it would end. That’s not going to change. It’s a fact of life.”
McKee decided over the summer that he wanted to honor the Hotshots. So he started to carve a 50-year-old tree in the backyard of his mother’s Costa Mesa home that he and his son used to climb.
“This whole art thing just came about when my son passed,” said McKee, who had never done a wood carving before. “I just started painting and carving (to cope).”
He finished the 9-foot-tall, 1,000-pound wooden memorial engraved with several faces signifying the fallen firefighters.
The other parents of the fallen Hotshots have not seen the tribute, McKee said. But others who have seen it have given him positive feedback, he said.
McKee has contemplated donating the artwork to the Newport Beach Fire Department or a mall in Prescott.
“This whole art thing is new for me,” he said. “I’m thinking of calling it ’19 Reasons.'”
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