Incident Name: Wahluke Slope Area
Personnel: Chet Bauermeister
Agency/Organization: Franklin County Fire District 4
Position: Fire Chief
Summary: Fire Chief Bauermeister passed away from injuries sustained at a mutual aid wildland fire call in neighboring Adams County when the Firecat (Snowcat conversion) fire apparatus he was operating in steep terrain flipped over backwards. Another firefighter onboard the apparatus with Chief Bauermeister at the time, sustained minor injuries and was taken to Othello Community Hospital where he was treated and released.
Accident Location: Wahluke Slope area of the Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.
- USFA Memorial Database: Chet D. Bauermeister
- NIOSH Report: Volunteer Fire Chief Killed When Rubber-Tracked Vehicle Overturns at Brush Fire (html) (pdf version)
- Franklin County District 4 Fire Chief Killed While Fighting Brush Fire
6/23/2010 | Online Article
FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash. - The North Franklin County District 4 Fire Chief was killed while fighting a brush fire just off highway 24 near Othello Wednesday afternoon. Fire officials say 46-year-old Chet Bauermeister was driving a snow cat converted into a fire apparatus on steep terrain when it rolled about 100 feet down a hill.
29-year old Ryan Theroff was riding with Bauermeister when it rolled. Theroff was thrown out of the vehicle. He was taken to Othello County Hospital where he was treated and released for minor injuries. Community members tell KHQ Bauermeister's death has devastated the small town of Basin City. Both Theroff and Bauermeister are from the Basin City area.
- Meeting set in Basin City tonight to talk about fire chief's death
6/24/2010 | Online Article
Basin City A community meeting is being held at 7 p.m. today at the Basin City Fire Hall so fire officials can talk to residents about the death of their fire chief.
Franklin Fire District 4 Chief Chet Bauermeister, 46, was killed Wednesday afternoon while helping fight a brush fire in Adams County. Residents will be told about how volunteers from other fire districts in Franklin, Benton and Walla Walla counties are filling in at the station to give crews with fire district 4 a chance to mourn the loss of their chief, officials said. The meeting will also serve as a debriefing for firefighters and other emergency responders in north Franklin County.
Bauermeister’s family said Chet didn’t want a formal funeral service that’s typically held for firefighters killed in the line of duty, and his wishes will be honored, officials said. They will, however, use the community parade on July 3 to honor Bauermeister. Fire departments from around the state will be invited to participate in the parade.
A celebration of life is planned for 2-7 p.m. Saturday at Don Bauermeister’s farm, and a memorial is set for 7-9 p.m. June 30 at the Basin City Fire Hall. A memorial fund in Chet Bauermeister’s name has also been established at the Bank of Whitman.
- Basin City gathers after death of beloved fire chief
BASIN CITY — Chet Bauermeister was a big man who was known to be outspoken and even kind of loud. But it was the 46-year-old Basin City man's heart, kindness and willingness to do everything and help anyone that made him stand out to those who knew him. "He lived for the community," said his father, Don Bauermeister. "Anything and everything anyone wanted he did."
Chet Bauermeister, who led Franklin Fire District 4 as its chief since late 2003, died when his ATV flipped and rolled about 100 feet down a steep slope while he was helping fight a brush fire Wednesday afternoon in Adams County.
Another firefighter from Fire District 4, Ryan F. Theroff, 29, was thrown from the rig and suffered minor injuries. He was treated at Othello Community Hospital and later released.
Bauermeister's death has devastated his family and fire district crew, but it's a loss that also has hit the community hard. "He was bigger than just the fire district," said Benton Fire District 4 Chief Mike Spring. "He was involved in everything that went on in Basin City. ... I don't think you can probably find a person in the Basin City area who didn't know Chet." (More at the link.)
- Chief Remembered for Kindness and Willingness to Help
6/24/2010 |Online Article
Bauermeister’s death has devastated his family and fire district crew, but it’s a loss that has also hit the community hard. "He was bigger than just the fire district," said Benton Fire District 4 Chief Mike Spring. "He was involved in everything that went on in Basin City. … I don’t think you can probably find a person in the Basin City area who didn’t know Chet."
A community meeting was held Thursday night at the Basin City Fire Hall to let residents know what was going on and to serve as a debriefing for firefighters and other emergency responders in the area. The meeting was intended to try to answer questions residents had, clear up any rumors that may be circulating and give them some peace, Spring said. "It’s also to let them know that as a whole fire group we’re not just going to forget about them after a week," he said.
Fire chiefs from around the Mid-Columbia also got together and formed a plan to help cover the fire district’s calls to give the firefighters time to mourn. "They really lost a key leader there and the chiefs are looking to see what we can do to help keep them functioning," said Richland Fire Chief Grant Baynes. Volunteer crews from fire districts in Walla Walla, Franklin and Benton counties will be staffing the Basin City station throughout the weekend.
Franklin Fire District 4 covers 180 square miles in the northwest area of the county and has about 30 volunteers. "Their guys are pretty torn up," Spring said. "We’re just trying to give them a break so they can recover."
The accident is being investigated by the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, with help from the Grant County sheriff’s traffic unit. The state Department of Labor and Industries is also conducting an investigation, as is common in workplace fatalities. Cause of the fire, which broke out around 2:45 p.m. near Hart Road and Highway 24 south of Othello, also is under investigation.
In addition to being fire chief, Bauermeister was an emergency medical technician who drove the ambulance in Basin City. Bauermeister also was a farmer and owned Chet Bauermeister Trucking in Mesa, which he started with his brother, his father said. "It takes some big shoes to fill. It’s a big void. He did an awful lot," his father said. "And he knew everybody. I don’t care where he went, he knew somebody there." Bauermeister also loved river rafting and had taken two rafting trips through the Grand Canyon.
Bauermeister leaves behind his wife, Sandy, four children, Katelin, Amanda, Josh and Lester, a grandson, Kayden, and numerous siblings, nieces and nephews. Bauermeister’s father said his son wanted people to have a party and remember the good times instead of grieving. His family said his favorite saying was, "Live your life so no one has to tell lies at your funeral."
Photos, Videos, & Tributes
- Basin City Parade on July 3, 2010:
Granger Firefighters paid tribute to fallen Fire Chief: Several Granger Firefighters traveled to Basin City on July 3rd to participate in the community parade and to honor Fire Chief Chet Bauermeister. Chet's family said he did not want a formal funeral service like those typically held for firefighters that die in the line of duty.
- A Celebration of Chet's life took place from 2 to 7 PM. June 26, 2010 at Don Bauermeister's farm.
- A Memorial took place from 7 to 9 PM June 30 at the Basin City Fire Hall. One of Chet's favorite sayings: "Live your life so no one has to tell lies at your funeral." No lies were told.
- Washington State Memorial Ceremony
Contributors to this article:
Please support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation