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Published July 03, 2013, 09:00 AM

Hundreds of Dakotas firefighters serving in West

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Some South Dakota firefighters back home after helping battle wildfires in Arizona say the deaths of 19 of their colleagues there is a reality check.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Some South Dakota firefighters back home after helping battle wildfires in Arizona say the deaths of 19 of their colleagues there is a reality check.

"The first thing that you think of is the job that you're doing is dangerous and there is that potential of death," Eric Boe with the South Dakota Wildland Fire Division's Black Hat Hand Crew told KOTA-TV in Rapid City. "It makes you think of your loved ones."

Twenty firefighters on the crew are home after two weeks in Arizona. Hundreds more firefighters from South Dakota and North Dakota are helping battle wildfires in the West. Many are on 14-day rotations.

Two of the 19 firefighters who died in Arizona on Sunday had ties to South Dakota. Dustin Deford, 24, from Montana, graduated from Cornerstone Bible Institute in Hot Springs three years ago. Kevin Woyjeck, 21, from California, served on a crew based in Rapid City and Custer State Park from November 2011 to August 2012.

"Kevin was an overachiever in everything he did in the world of firefighting. He was an excellent sawyer who felled many trees in Custer State Park during the current mountain pine beetle epidemic," Dale Deuter, a retired Wildland Fire Division crew boss, said in a statement. "He was a friend to all on the crew and well-liked by everyone."

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