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Firefighting community is set to honor Packer

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By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

The region’s community

of firefighters has gathered

together to plan a memorial

service for former East

Pierce Fire and Rescue

Fire Chief Dan Packer,

which is scheduled for 2

p.m. Thursday at Christian

Faith Center in Federal Way,

33645 20th Ave. South.

The 49-year-old chief died

July 26 in a wildfire at the

Panther Fire south of Happy

Camp in Siskiyou County in

northern California. Packer

was scouting the fire, preparing

to assume division

supervisor duties, when the

blaze changed directions

and blew over him.

An incident management

team has been assembled

to work out the details of

the memorial. The group

includes members from

Tacoma, Graham, Orting,

Pierce County, East Pierce

and other jurisdictions. The

team is being led by Deputy

Chief Jeff Jensen from

Tacoma Fire.

“We use incident management

for all types of events,”

Jensen said. “We can use

it for simple single engine

events and complex events

like this memorial. It can be

used for wildfires or memorials.

Chief Packer was a

member of a incident management

team.”

Jensen said the first task

of the team was to take over

the work of the memorial

and make sure East Pierce’s

emergency response capabilities

is intact.

At a July 28 meeting,

fire district commission

members appointed John

McDonald, East Pierce deputy

chief, to take over as fire

chief on an interim basis.

McDonald - with Packer’s

wife Marylee and two East

Pierce firefighters - traveled

to California and escorted

the chief’s body home July

30. The East Pierce wildfire

team and more than 100

firefighters from the region

met the DC-3 firefighting

plane as it landed at Tacoma

Narrows Airport.

While the planning and

preparation for the memorial

moved forward, members

of East Pierce grappled with

the loss of their chief.

“He was a visionary leader

for this organization,”

McDonald said. “While he

was a great fire chief, his life

revolved around his family.

For the time we had him we

are extremely grateful.”

Firefighter Dan Curtis,

who has been with East

Pierce for 13 years, said

Packer was “always there

to help. It will take us a long

time to realize what he has

done with this department.”

East Pierce Lt. Rich

Simmons described Packer

as a visionary who wanted

to get the “seasoned veterans

to empty their minds

before they leave. I took

every opportunity to empty

his mind.”

Capt. Jay Adams has been

with the department for 22

years. His relationship with

the chief extended back

prior to Packer being hired

in 1995.

“He mentored me and

understood me,” Adams

said. “He was a calming

influence over everyone. He

was firefighter, husband and

father and more than any of

that, he was a man.”

The procession to the

memorial service Thursday

in Federal Way is scheduled

to begin at 10:15 a.m. at

the Public Safety Building.

From there more than 100

fire engines, emergency

trucks and other vehicles

will travel to Sumner arriving

at about 10:30 a.m. and

travel on to the Christian

Faith Center.

Dennis Box can be reached

at dbox@courierherald.com.

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