Sean Misner, a Santa Ynez Valley native who recently landed his dream job – following generations of family members into the fire service—was among the 19 firefighters killed over the weekend while battling an Arizona wildfire.
He died Sunday while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire, which had burned 8,400 acres as of late Monday night.
Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District board chairman Bruce Porter confirmed Misner’s death Monday morning, and told Noozhawk this is a “difficult time” for the school and valley community.
Misner, 26, a Prescott Valley resident, was hired on to the hotshot crew in April, choosing the same gutsy line of work as his great grandfather, grandfather, uncles and cousin.
He had been deployed to combat the Yarnell Hill fire with the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite fire crew created in 2002 to respond to the most demanding of fireline tasks during extreme environmental conditions.
The city of Prescott posted a notice on its web page that all 19 victims were members of the hotshots crew.
The tragedy is being called the deadliest day for firefighters since 9/11, and the deadliest in a wildfire since 1933.
Misner’s parents, Ron and Tammy, recently moved from Los Olivos to Solvang, according to Santa Ynez school district staff.
Ron Misner has been a coach at the high school—where his son had participated in varsity football and track—for more than 20 years, most recently for the cross country and track teams, said Mark Swanitz, principal of the high school.
Misner’s mother, Tammy, who is director of health services at Dunn School in Los Olivos, said her son loved football and dreamed of becoming a professional football player before deciding to follow his family members into the fire service instead.
He went through the fire academy in Prescott Valley in April 2011, and passed with flying colors.
“He was strong, confident and enthusiastic about everything he did,” the proud mother said. “He was a devoted husband, father to be, son and friend. He will be missed more than words can say! He is and always be my ‘Bud’.”
Misner is survived by his wife, Amanda Misner, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child.
School staff shared similar fond memories of Misner, who had been a member of the high school’s sports medicine program that taught youth how to administer minor first aid.
“He was the kind of kid out assisting others, even back then,” said Swanitz, who relayed thoughts from teachers and other staff of the close-knit school community.
“He was an all-around nice guy, more than willing to pitch in and help if anybody needed help. He was just everywhere doing everything.”
Misner is the nephew of Montecito Fire Protection District Operations Chief Terry McElwee and the grandson of the late former Fire Chief Herb McElwee, according to a fire district spokeswoman.
The Montecito Fire Protection District has established a local fund to help support the families of the firefighting victims.
A Sean Misner Memorial page has been set up on Facebook, which includes information about contributing to a memorial fund.
Santa Ynez school board members have expressed interest in establishing some type of memorial for Misner, Swanitz said, but the details of that have not been determined.