John Percin, Jr.
John Percin, Jr.
There will be a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Friday, July 12, at Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Oswego for John Percin, Jr., one of the 19 elite firefighters who died when a wildfire surged over them in Arizona June 30

The public is welcome to attend.

Percin's remains will arrive in Portland on Wednesday. An urn carrying his ashes is set to arrive at Portland's airport around 11 a.m. Wednesday. Firefighters will then lead a ceremony and lead the Percin family in a procession to the Lake Oswego Fire Department station at 300 B Ave. The urn will remain there until Friday's funeral.

Gov. John Kitzhaber ordered flags be flown at half-staff last week.

The fire that took Percin's life was only the second he had fought.

He once belonged to Resurrection Parish in Tualatin, where he was confirmed as a teenager. John Percin Jr., 24, who played multiple sports, also attended Our Lady of the Lake School and then graduated from West Linn High in 2007.  

The Percin family, members of Resurrection, wrote in a statement: "John was a brave and courageous man who never hesitated to put others before himself. He was loved by many, and he will always be remembered. He is an inspiration to us all. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of his fallen brothers and their families."

Percin and the other Hotshot firefighters took shelter in heat-resistant shelters, but the protection was insufficient. Wind shifted and drove flames toward them when they were trying to protect the town of Yarnell, Ariz. It was the nation's worst loss of wild land firefighters in 80 years. The crew was called the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott. Only one crew member survived because he was moving the team's truck.

"Johnny was a very, very good athlete," says Mark Neil, a member of Resurrection who coached Percin in CYO grade school basketball. "He was very competitive and very coachable."

Percin was not tall, but was strong, fast and skilled. "You knew when it came to crunch time, you wanted the ball in John's hands," Neil explains.

The former coach says he has always had a "special spot" in his heart for Percin, his older brother and their parents, John and Mary. "At these small Catholic schools, other families become an extension of your own," he says.  

"Johnny was very full of energy," says Joan Codd, principal of Our Lady of the Lake, where Percin was a student from 1995 to 2000. The family was highly involved at the school. Codd says the school sends thoughts and prayers to the Percins.

Arizona's governor called June 30 "as dark a day I can remember" and ordered flags flown at half-staff.

President Barack Obama, on a visit to Africa, said he and his family are "heartbroken" about the tragedy. The president predicted that officials will need to examine the boost in deadly wildfires in the west.

Ignited by lightning, the fire destroyed scores of homes in Yarnell, a mountain town of 700 retirees and others 85 miles northwest of Phoenix. The blaze was still out of control as of Tuesday morning. The shift in wind that killed the 19 men caused the flames to spread from 200 to 2,000 acres within hours.  

In previous weeks, the unit had been fighting fires in New Mexico and near Prescott. Hotshot crews are highly trained in techniques to dig out lines of protection so fires do not reach populated areas.  

A longtime drought has left Arizona and other parts of the Southwest prone to fast-moving fires.