We offer our sympathies to the family and co-workers of Chief Daniel Packer of the East Pierce County Fire and Rescue of Lake Tapps, Washington.
Firefighter’s body recovered, identified
The remains of a firefighter who died battling the Panther Fire have been retrieved and the Washington man’s identity has been confirmed, a Siskiyou County Sheriff’s dispatcher said this morning.
Daniel Bruce Packer, 49, of Lake Tapps, Wash., died while working on the blaze about 15 miles south of Happy Camp in southwestern Siskiyou County. The U.S. Forest Service reported the death Saturday, but the fire’s intensity and limited visibility kept crews from recovering or positively identifying Packer’s body until Sunday, sheriff’s dispatcher Dennis Moser said today.
A Forest Service ground team lead by a Siskiyou County sheriff’s deputy was able to reach the site by 6 p.m. Sunday, sheriff’s spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said that evening. A ground team was expected to carry Packer’s body from the fire area to the nearest road, a job estimated to take three hours, she said Sunday.
An autopsy will be scheduled for early this week.
Flags at fire stations throughout the state are flying at half staff after a prominent fire chief from Washington died Saturday while scouting a Northern California blaze, fire officials have confirmed.
Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said Sunday that investigators believed 49-year-old Daniel Packer of Lake Tapps, Wash., chief of East Pierce County Fire and Rescue in a 142-square-mile area with a population of 72,000 east of Tacoma, died over the weekend.
The identity was confirmed by Mike Brown, executive director of the Washington State Fire Chiefs, of which Packer was the immediate past president, and by Spokane, Wash., Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer, a colleague on the board of the state group.
Packer was working as a division supervisor on the 250-acre Panther Fire in the Siskiyou Mountains, part of the Siskiyou Complex of fires covering 54,000 acres, more than 8.4 square miles, according to a news release and death notice issued by Schaeffer.
“He was overrun by the fire when the wind shifted unexpectedly,” Schaeffer wrote.
Another firefighter managed to flee on foot, Davida Carnahan, a spokeswoman for the Klamath National Forest, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It was unclear whether the surviving firefighter was injured, but he declined medical attention, she said.
“We’ve pulled the crews off of that fire because of the impact it has had mentally and emotionally when they lose one of their own,” Carnahan said. “We have not been able to retrieve the remains, because the fire is too unstable to get in there.”
Klamath National Forest spokesman Duane Lyons said a U.S. Forest Service team would arrive Monday to investigate the cause of his death.
In his work with the chiefs association, Packer was especially involved in state emergency mobilization and incident management team planning, Schaeffer added.
“He was a veteran wildland firefighter,” McCallion said. “Dan took that experience and helped develop our own wildland firefighting team.”
Packer is survived by his wife, four daughters and two grandchildren.
HERE is a link to a video report from King5.
UPDATE @ 8:30 p.m. PT July 28:
HERE are a few more details, including the fact that he deployed his fire shelter.
UPDATE @ 7:55 p.m. PT July 29
HERE is another story, including information that a crew that had been in the same area the day before and had a close call, had decided they would not return the following day because they deemed it unsafe.