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Benefit held for Cedar City firefighter killed in Yarnell Hill fire

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Posted at 4:32 PM, Jul 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-21 18:32:57-04

CEDAR CITY, Utah – A benefit was held in Cedar City Saturday for the family of a firefighter from that area who died fighting a fire in Arizona.

Joe Thurston was born and raised in Southern Utah, and he and 18 other firefighters lost their lives on June 30 while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.

Friends and fellow firefighters organized Saturday’s event, which featured a karaoke contest, concerts and a drawing for prizes.

Chief Paul Irons, Cedar City Fire Department, said they feel a bond with Thurston and wanted to help his family.

"The community and fire departments, whether it be wildland fire or structure, we're all a brotherhood, and we all work together to try to fix and help,” he said. “And that's what we are here for: to help.”

The Thurston family said they are grateful for all of the support they’ve received in the wake of Joe Thurston’s death. He leaves behind a wife and two young sons.

Gayemarie Ekker, Thurston’s mother, said she was touched by the efforts of those who organized the benefit.

"Nothing will ever replace Joe, but the hero’s celebration and honor that he's been given is just amazing, and we're just so humble and grateful,” she said.

Event organizers said all of the money raised will go to Thurston’s loved ones.