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Friends, family share stories of fallen Arizona Hotshots

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DeFord is survived by nine brothers and sisters, including a U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant who served in Afghanistan, an older brother who was fighting fire with a helicopter team in New Mexico and a younger brother on a Hotshot crew in Alaska.


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An avid snowboarder, Chris MacKenzie, 30, grew up in California’s San Jacinto Valley, where he was a 2001 graduate of Hemet High School and a former member of the town’s fire department. He joined the U.S. Forest Service in 2004, then transferred two years ago to the Prescott Fire Department.

MacKenzie followed his father — a former Moreno Valley Fire Department captain — into firefighting.

His family and friends said he loved fighting wildfires because "it was a way to see the most beautiful country in America."

MacKenzie spent four seasons working for a ski resort in southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains. He also served on a helicopter crew for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and as a Hotshot in the San Bernardino National Forest.

He applied for the Granite Mountain crew at the invitation of one of his former captains, Aaron Stevens.

His family said he was loved by everyone he knew and collected friendships like people collected shot glasses.


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A native of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Eric Marsh was known for his cool head and "Southern gentleman" demeanor, even in the hairiest of situations

Other firefighting teams would rib him about his laid-back manner.

"Eric had this deep soothing voice that no matter how amped everyone around him got, he was able to stay real mellow. We’d be like, ‘Out west we gotta move a little faster, talk a little faster, Eric,’" said Marsh’s friend, Patrick Moore, superintendent of another Hotshot crew.

Marsh, 43, was an avid mountain biker who became hooked on firefighting while studying biology at Appalachian State University. Marsh built the Granite Mountain Hotshots from nothing — and died trying to protect the crew that friends say constituted his life’s work.

"Eric was 90 percent a Granite Mountain Hotshot, and the 10 percent was left for us," his wife Amanda said at a July Fourth carnival after his death.

The Marshes had no children, and Eric Marsh himself was an only child.

During the offseason, he worked as an instructor, helping to train hundreds of Arizona firefighters. Marsh liked to say that working on the Hotshot crew "turned boys into men," according to his family.

"He was a loving and caring son, and he was compassionate and concerned about the well-being of the crew members," Marsh’s father, John, said. "He was concerned for them, not just in the fire. They were like his family."

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