Growing up, watching his father serve as a fire chief in Federal Way, Jerry Thorson knew he wanted to follow along his father’s footsteps.
Sunday, Thorson will bring more than 35 years of fire department experience when he assumes the duties as fire chief for East Pierce County Fire and Rescue.
“I am really excited and I can’t wait to start,” Thorson said during a phone interview last week.
Thorson will take over from interim Chief John McDonald. McDonald took over the position when Chief Dan Packer died July 26 at a wildfire in Siskiyou County, Calif.
Thorson said before applying an East Pierce, he researched the department to determine its mission statement and philosophy.
“I wasn’t attracted because I thought they (East Pierce) needed change,” Thorson said. “I was attracted because it is a good solid department. They have a great staff and they’re eager to get involved.”
Thorson was raised in Federal Way, where he graduated from high school. After high school, he attended Southern Illinois University through McChord Air Force Base and studied workforce education and development. He served five years as a volunteer with South King County Fire and Rescue before being hired as a full-time firefighter. Most recently, he has served as the department’s deputy chief and is responsible for emergency management and public education on fire safety. South King serves the cities of Federal Way and Des Moines.
Thorson earned the title of “certified emergency manager” in July.
During the past 30 years, Thorson said, he has seen plenty of changes in equipment. But one of the biggest changes has come in the field of emergency medical services.
With East Pierce staffed with fire-based medics, Thorson said he would like to see the staff continue the necessary training needed for their jobs.
“Today, 75 percent of our calls are EMS-based,” Thorson said. “I want to give them – the emergency medical technicians – the tools, training and education needed.”
Thorson added he is looking forward to working with McDonald.
“John is a good, solid guy,” Thorson said. “He has a lot of knowledge we can use in the department.”
Not only was Thorson’s father a fireman, but his brother is, too. He works for South King Fire and Rescue.
One of Thorson’s stepsons is a volunteer with the Milton Fire Department.
Thorson, married with two sons and two stepsons, resides in Milton.
Reach Dannie Oliveaux at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-802-8209.