Christopher J. Blackwell liked life on the edge.
"He was interested in anything that was dangerous," his mother, Frances Allen, said. "He was born with no sense of fear. When he was little he would swim underwater before he would swim on top of it. My other three children were a lot easier."
A fireman for 20 years, he was assigned to Rescue Company 3 in the South Bronx. He was a specialist in collapsed buildings, and gave lectures on the topic to firefighters across the country. Like many of his colleagues, he had a genetic connection to his profession: his uncle had been a captain in the New York Fire Department. His father and a grandfather were both policemen.
When he was not on the job, Firefighter Blackwell, 42, devoted his time to his wife, Jane, and their three children, Alexandra, who is 15, Ryan, 13, and Samantha, 11. "He didn't care where we were going or what we were doing," Mrs. Blackwell said. "When he wasn't working, he wanted to spend time with the family."
He had a high-risk job, but Firefighter Blackwell "wasn't reckless," his wife said. He loved doing what he did. His mother added, "He lived and died with purpose."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on January 27, 2002.