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2 Arizona firefighters who died were cousins

July 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two of the victims in the Arizona firestorm were cousins.

Robert Caldwell, 23, and Grant McKee, 21, shared their childhood and their goal of becoming firefighters. Their friends in Costa Mesa comfort each other as they think about two little boys they watched grow up.

Family friend Marie Teglas said the two firefighters had the same personality. They were "very bubbly" and "loved to help people," she said.

The two, inseparable in life, died together helping others. They were among the 19 firefighters who died Sunday while battling the Yarnell Fire.

"Found out that Grant perished in the fire and we were hoping Robert was alive, but after half an hour, found out that both were gone," said Teglas.

"All I can think about is the last moments...how scary it must have been, how tough these guys were and how it just ran over them. All I can think about is the last seconds of their lives," said family friend Zoltan Teglas.

McKee, from Costa Mesa, had followed in Caldwell's footsteps. Caldwell was a crew leader with the Granite Mountain Hotshots. McKee moved to Arizona a few years ago and had just joined the elite firefighting team in April.

Family members say McKee visited Southern California a few months ago at his grandmother's house in Costa Mesa, proudly showing off the firefighting boots she helped buy for him.

Just two days before he died, friends say McKee had a break from the fire and was allowed to go home. He called his grandmother.

"[He] says, 'Grandma, I'm OK. Don't worry about me.' And then he was called back and then we got the news of what happened," said Marie Teglas.

McKee was engaged and planned to return to school after the fire season to become a paramedic. The former Newport Harbor High School student is remembered as a good athlete. He was a football player and a wrestler. Friends say Caldwell had married his wife, Claire, several months ago.

"They were brothers in arms and they died together," said Zoltan Teglas.


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