East Pierce Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Dan Packer was reported missing Saturday while battling a California wildfire and is presumed dead, fire officials said Sunday.
"At this time, we do not have confirmation regarding Chief Packer from the command staff at the Panther Fire," East Pierce Deputy Chief John McDonald said in a news release. "Until we get a definitive answer from them, we are unable to make a statement."
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 expressed loss for a Port Angeles firefighter, Andrew Palmer, who died earlier this week after being struck by a falling tree 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, 49, deployed Friday to Northern California to fight the Panther Fire south of Happy Camp 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.
The city of Sumner released the following press release confirming Packer’s death:
East Pierce Fire and Rescue confirmed that Chief Dan Packer passed away while fighting fires in northern California. The City of Sumner joins East Pierce in sending thoughts and prayers to the entire Packer and East Pierce family.
"There are people alive in Sumner because of Dan Packer and his wonderful vision," said Mayor Dave Enslow. "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."
Mayor Enslow has declared all flags to fly at half-staff in the City of Sumner in a tribute to Chief Packer.