YARNELL, Ariz. -- NBC Charlotte has learned one of the 19 firefighters killed in Arizona Sunday night has ties to the Charlotte area.
Eric Marsh, 43, grew up in Ashe County.
He went to Ashe County High School and graduated from Appalachian State University.
Marsh was an avid mountain biker who grew up in Ashe County, but became hooked on firefighting while studying biology at App State, said Leanna Racquer, the ex-wife of his cousin. Marsh lived with Racquer and her then-husband during the winters from 1992 through 1996 in North Carolina, but kept returning to Arizona during fire season.
After college, he kept working as a firefighter, eventually landing a full-time job and settling in northern Arizona. He even moved his parents to the state, she said. Marsh was superintendent of the Hotshot crew and the oldest of the 19 who died.
"He's was great -- he was the best at what he did," Racquer said. "He is awesome and well-loved and they are hurting," she said of his family.
Marsh was married but had no children, said his cousin, Scott Marsh of Pisgah Forest, N.C. His father, John Marsh, told the Jefferson Post newspaper in Jefferson, N.C., that his only child "was a great son."
"He was compassionate and caring about his crew."
Marsh and 18 other members of an elite firefighting team were killed when they were overcome by flames while battling a wildfire.