Christopher MacKenzie, 30

Christopher MacKenzie liked being a firefighter because it gave him the opportunity to travel the country.

“His friend was telling me yesterday that Chris was just so anxious for fire season to start,” his mother, Laurie Goralski, said as she cried. “He considered this job, which he loved, as a way for him to see the United States.”

Mr. MacKenzie, who grew up in Hemet, Calif., had traveled to Oregon, Washington, Montana and Texas, among other states.

His mother remembered him as an outgoing person who made friends easily and enjoyed snowboarding.

“He lived the life he wanted to live,” she said. “He went where he wanted to go. He was a free spirit.”

Mr. MacKenzie began working for the United States Forest Service in California in 2004. Several of his friends had applied because they were looking for jobs, but Ms. Goralski said her son stood out because he never gave up. Mr. MacKenzie’s father had worked as a firefighter for 25 years, and they had the same commitment to the job.

“When you’re in a situation that is hard, you don’t quit, because what you’re doing is important,” Ms. Goralski said. “It took a lot of determination and integrity to put up with everything they did.”

— EMMA G. FITZSIMMONS
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Christopher MacKenzie