Joe Thurston, 32

Joe Thurston was the perfect combination of risk taker and grounded family man, said his childhood friend E. Jay Overson. Even as a young man growing up in Cedar City, Utah, he and his friends thrilled at diving on cliffs in the nearby Quail Creek Reservoir. “He didn’t shy away from things other people might think twice about,” Mr. Overson said.

Mr. Thurston married his high school sweetheart, Marsena. He “was head over heels” for her and never missed an opportunity to remind her of his love, his family said in a statement. They had two sons, and when he was not fighting fires, he “could always be found at the baseball field or on the floor playing with his kids,” the family said.

It was no surprise to Mr. Overson when he learned that his friend had taken on the demanding, dangerous work of fighting wildfires. It fit his nature.

“He was a hard worker,” Mr. Overson said. “Whatever he got involved in, he gave it his best — especially since it was very service oriented and risky.”

Mr. Thurston became a firefighter and an emergency medical technician in 2008. The family statement called him “energetic,” “compassionate” and “wildly fun to be around, always rallying the group to the next adventure.”

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Joe Thurston