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Chris MacKenzie

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Chris MacKenzie Chris MacKenzie
YARNELL, AZ (CBS5) -

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.

MacKenzie, like at least one other member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, had followed his father into firefighting. Dav Fulford-Brown, also a former firefighter, feared for the worst as soon as he heard the news of the Arizona firefighters.

"I said, 'Oh, my God, that's Chris' crew.' I started calling him and calling him and got no answer," he told The Press-Enterprise.

MacKenzie, he said, "lived life to the fullest ... and was fighting fire just like his dad. He was finishing his credentials to get promoted and loved the people. It's an insane tragedy."

Chris' family said he was born with eyelashes that women would die for, and before he left the hospital one of the maternity ward nurses put him in one arm and a set of twin boys on the other and showed them off to all the mothers and nurses. He was taken home to San Bernardino to meet his 17-month-old brother Aaron. From the very beginning you could tell he was going to be mellow and easygoing. When he was 3, his family moved to Hemet where he attended elementary, middle and high school. He was in the GATE program for exceptional students when in elementary school, and he was a Boy Scout who earned his Eagle Scout ranking. He was a big kid, and upon graduating from middle school went out for football at Hemet High and played all four years. Because of football, he developed a love for working out and was well on his way to becoming healthy by the time he graduated in 2001.

After high school he developed a passion for snowboarding, moved to Big Bear, went to work for Snow Summit for four seasons and became an excellent snowboarder. His next adventure began when he applied to become a seasonal firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service and ended up on the Taquitz crew on the San Bernardino National Forest. He went on to serve on a helicopter crew for the Bureau of Land Management and the Mill Creek Hotshots on the San Bernardino National Forest. He was invited to apply to the Granite Mountain Hotshots by Aaron Stevens, one of his former captains, and he just started his third season as a full-time employee of Prescott City Fire as a lead crew member.

Chris lived his life to the fullest and went places most people only dreamed about. He collected friendships like other people collect shot glasses. He loved fighting wildfire and told his brother he saw it as a way to see the most beautiful country in America. He was loved by everyone he met and will forever have a place in their hearts.

Christopher is survived by his mother Lauri Goralski, father Michael Mackenzie, brother Aaron Mackenzie, stepmother Janice Mackenzie, and stepsisters Janae Gier and Jill Allison.

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