East Pierce chief dies while battling California wildfire

East Pierce chief dies while battling California wildfire

28 July 2008

published by www.thenewstribune.com

USA — East Pierce Fire & Rescue Chief Dan Packer died Saturday while battling a California wildfire, Sumner officials confirmed Sunday evening. Packer, 49, had been missing and presumed dead since Saturday.

“There are people alive in Sumner because of Dan Packer and his wonderful vision,” Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow said in a news release.

“Professionally, he knew how to bring people together to give them the best fire service possible. You can see it in East Pierce and the wonderful service it provides to so many communities, including Sumner. That’s all because of Dan.

“And personally, you can’t find a better guy than Dan. He knew that firefighting was really about people, about being part of a community in good times and bad.

“That’s why Dan was in our parades and celebrations and also helping us in our hardest hours of fires and floods. We’ll do all we can to help now that it’s East Pierce’s saddest hour.”

Enslow said city flags will fly at half-staff in tribute to Packer.

Officials at the fire station declined to comment Sunday afternoon.

Packer, who grew up in Montana, was a former bull rider on the rodeo circuit, according to a biography released by fire officials.

He is survived by his wife, four daughters and two grandchildren.

Packer started his fire career in Burien in 1981 and became chief of the Bonney Lake Fire Department in 1995.

A Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman said the 250-acre fire had prevented crews from recovering the body to make a positive identification, but that several other firefighters who escaped from the scene identified the victim as Packer, The Associated Press reported.

A U.S. Forest Service team will arrive today to investigate, the report said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire also released a statement Sunday saying:

“Chief Packer, who was the immediate past president of the Washington Fire Chiefs, was deployed as a division supervisor in the Siskiyou Mountain range in Northern California when he was overrun by a wildfire following an unexpected shift in the wind.”

She also spoke of Olympic National Park firefighter Andrew Palmer, who died last week after being struck by a falling tree while fighting the Eagle Fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

“They gave their lives doing the hard, heroic work of protecting the lives of others,” she said.

Packer deployed Friday to Northern California to fight the Panther Fire south of Happy Camp, a short distance from the Oregon border, in Siskiyou County. As of Saturday, the fire was 36 percent contained.

East Pierce Fire & Rescue provides services for more than 73,000 people living in and around Bonney Lake, Sumner and Lake Tapps.

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