Arizona firefighter had ties to Lake County
One of the 19 firefighters who died Sunday in an Arizona wildfire grew up in Lake County.
Anthony Rose, 23, lived in Wadsworth and Beach Park before moving to Arizona as a teen, said his mother, Athena Rose Sperry. Everyone called him Tony, she said.
Rose had been a firefighter for about five years, first with the Crown King, Ariz., Fire Department and then with the Arizona-based Granite Mountain Hotshots team.
All but one member of that squad perished Sunday when a wind-whipped wildfire overran them on a mountainside north of Phoenix.
It was the nation's biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years and the deadliest single day for fire crews since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Sperry, who still lives in Beach Park, worried for her son's safety after seeing a TV news report about the fire Sunday night. She couldn't reach Rose's fiancee, Tiffany, at first, but eventually her fears were confirmed.
"I'm numb," she said Tuesday.
Sperry recalled her son as an outdoor lover who rode dirt bikes as a child and enjoyed camping. But he also wanted to help people, and that's why he became a firefighter.
"That was just his nature," she said.
As a youth, Rose attended Spaulding School and the former O'Plaine School in Gurnee and then Viking Middle School, his mother said.
From 2004 to 2006, he was a student at Zion-Benton Township High School, District 126 Superintendent Chris Clark said in an emailed statement. Clark expressed condolences to Rose's loved ones.
"We are very proud to learn of Tony's career choice of being a professional firefighter and of his efforts to serve others," Clark said in the statement. "We cannot think of a more honorable act than to give of one's life in the service of others."
Rose moved to Arizona in 2006 and started working for the Crown King Fire Department at 17. His uncle was a dispatcher for the department, Sperry said.
Rose became a firefighter when he was 18 and loved the job, his mom recalled.
"I couldn't tell you how proud I was," she said.
Retired Crown King firefighter Greg Flores said Rose "just blossomed in the fire department. He did so well and helped so much in Crown King. We were all so very proud of him."
Flores said the town was planning a fundraiser for Rose and hoped to also have a memorial to honor him.
"He was the kind of guy that his smile lit up the whole room and everyone would just rally around him," he said. "He loved what he was doing, and that brings me some peace of heart."
A Lake County memorial is being planned too, Sperry said.
Rose's fiancee is expecting a child in October.
In addition to his mother and fiancee, Rose's survivors include a brother, Alexander Sperry, and a sister, Rhonda Sperry.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.
Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.
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