William Warneke, 25

As a little boy, there were two things William Warneke wanted to be when he grew up: a Marine and a firefighter. In the end, the outgoing 25-year-old did both, his grandparents Jack and Nancy recalled.

Mr. Warneke, known as Billy, grew up in Hemet, Calif., not far from Camp Pendleton. Jack Warneke remembered how his son, even as a 6-year-old, would play with an old fire extinguisher, draping himself in a yellow rain jacket and scampering up his grandfather’s ladder with his brother and cousin. He joined R.O.T.C. in high school and enlisted in the Marines after graduation, shipping off to Iraq in 2005.

When he got back, his father said, Mr. Warneke was intent on chasing down his other dream. He moved to Tucson, where his high school sweetheart Roxanne had relocated, and enrolled in community college so he could be certified as a firefighter. Earlier this year, Mr. Warneke told his family excitedly that he had been selected to join the Hotshots. He even moved to Prescott temporarily so he could be closer to the crew’s base of operations.

“He and Roxanne had just got married and were expecting a baby in December. It would have been their first,” Ms. Warneke, his grandmother, said. “They were going to have a little farm, and life was going to be perfect.”

— DAN FROSCH
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William Warneke