28 Jul 2008, 10:37am
Latest Fire News
by admin

Washington state fire chief killed in Calif. blaze

KOMO News [here]

REDDING, Calif. - A second Washington state firefighter has perished while battling a Northern California wildfire, officials said.

Daniel Packer, chief of East Pierce Fire & Rescue and past president of the Washington Fire Chiefs, was killed Saturday at about 3:30 p.m. while supervising firefighting efforts on the Panther Fire south of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County.

His death was confirmed by Mike Brown, executive director of the Washington State Fire Chiefs, and Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.

Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said the 250-acre fire was preventing crews from recovering the body to make a positive identification. But she said several other firefighters who escaped from the scene identified the victim as Packer, 49, of Lake Tapps.

Russ McCallion, batallion chief with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, said he had been notified that Packer is missing and presumed dead.

“He was overrun by the fire when the wind shifted unexpectedly,” Schaeffer said.

The news comes only a day after 18-year-old Andrew Jackson Palmer, a firefighter with the Olympic National Park, was killed by a falling tree while battling another wildfire in Trinity County.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said she was “deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of two Washington state firefighters who were battling wildfires in Northern California.”

“My heart goes out to the family members and co-workers of Chief Packer and Firefighter Palmer,” Gregoire said. “I ask all Washingtonians to keep the families and fire departments of these brave men in their thoughts and prayers.”

Flags at many fire stations around Washington state were lowered to half staff.

Chief Packer was assigned to assume a supervisory position in the firefighting effort. He is a member of a Washington state-based incident management team that is deployed to major incidents such as large wildfires.

Fire officials said supervising firefighting efforts on the front lines Saturday, and had been scheduled to take command of a large team of up to 1,000 firefighters on Sunday.

A Forest Service investigation team is due to arrive on the Klamath National Forest by Monday, officials said.

The 250-acre Panther Fire was started by a lightning strike Monday night about 15 miles south of Happy Camp and has since burned toward Ukonom Creek and the Klamath River. It is part of the Siskiyou Complex fire near Yreka that has burned more than 50,000 acres and as of Saturday, was 36 percent contained.

The chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Abigail Kimbell, on a visit to Redding on Saturday, praised the courage of firefighters battling California’s unprecedented wildland fires.

Palmer, the first Washington state firefighter to die on the lines, was working his first day on the job when he was hit by a falling tree Friday. He had graduated in June from Port Townsend High School.

Port Townsend High School Athletic Director Scott Ricardo called Palmer a “bright and shining star.”



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