How Dan Packer was found

Dan Packer

When Dan Packer was entrapped on the Panther fire on the Klamath National Forest in northern California on July 26 it was not known exactly what happened to him. The incident management team knew approximately where he had gone while scouting the fire, but he was listed as “missing” for about 24 hours.

Stockton, California Fire Department Battalion Chief Kim Olson was working on another fire nearby but went to his supervisor, Mike Dietrich, and volunteered to search for Packer. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Record:


Olson and Safety Officer Jim Walker took three engines and a team of timber fellers into the Klamath. They drove 2-1/2 hours from base camp to a place called Drop Point 16. The fire roared all around them but couldn’t be seen through the smoke.

So Olson and Walker decided to go on alone, on foot. After about an hour’s hike, they found pieces of Packer’s gear, which he had shed as he fled the fire, and then his body, inside the remnants of his shelter. The fire around them began to surge again.

“You could hear it and feel it,” Olson said.

From the sky above, an air attack supervisor warned Olson that he and Walker were nearly surrounded by flames. Concerned that the fire’s movement would close off his escape route, Olson called in a helicopter to make targeted water drops but eventually was told it couldn’t hold off the fire’s advance.

“OK, see you tomorrow,” Olson replied, settling in for an overnight stay inside a 250-acre wildfire.

But a reprieve came in the late afternoon, when the fire broke long enough for Olson and Walker to be retrieved, along with Packer’s body. Olson said he was just doing what he had to do.

“We don’t leave firefighters,” he said. “We don’t leave anybody behind.”

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