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Incident Name: Panther Fire, part of the Siskiyou Complex f fires near Yreka, CA
Date: 7/26/08
Personnel: Daniel Bruce Packer
Age: 49
Agency/Organization: East Pierce Fire & Rescue, Bonney Lake, WA
Position: Fire Chief

Summary:

Chief Packer was dispatched as a Division Supervisor to the Siskiyou Complex of fires on the Klamath National Forest in Northern California. Chief Packer and other firefighters were assigned responsibility for the Panther Fire, south of Happy Camp. In order to prepare to assume management responsibility for the fire, Chief Packer and another division supervisor were assigned to scout the area. At approximately 1530hrs, the fire spread quickly and burned over Chief Packer's position. Chief Packer deployed his fire shelter in an unsuccessful attempt to protect himself from the rapidly advancing flame front. A subsequent autopsy revealed that Chief Packer died of smoke inhalation and thermal burns.

Photo Credit: East Pierce Fire and Rescue

Chief Dan Packer: East Pierce Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Packer: East Pierce Fire and Rescue

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Maps

Accident Location South of Happy Camp, CA (10T DM 68 26)

  • Panther Fire Google map Panther Fire Google map

    Panther Fire Google map sent in day after the burnover with the comment: If such a map could be provided just prior to dispatch, a firefighter new to a fire area could begin to get oriented.

  • Panther Fire Alignment of Forces Map Panther Fire Alignment of Forces Map

    Panther Fire Alignment of Forces Map: Wind, Slope, Solar Preheat after inversion burns off put firefighters at risk for an upmountain run after 1400 hours. Campbell Prediction System.

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • First Press Release from Klamath National Forest website:

    For immediate release.

    Yreka, CA (July 29, 2008)...Fire Chief Daniel Bruce Packer who died on July 26, 2008 while working on the Panther Fire will be flown home on July 30, 2008. A U. S. Forest Service DC-3 airplane is scheduled to leave the Siskiyou County Airport approximately at Noon, and will arrive at the Tacoma Narrows Airport sometime between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. The U.S. Forest Service Honor Guard, representatives of the Klamath National Forest, CAL FIRE, and Yreka Volunteer Fire Department will see him off. The body will be accompanied by representatives from East Pierce Fire and Rescue, Bonney Lake, Wash.

    Chief Packer, Fire Chief of East Pierce Fire and Rescue, had responded to a request by the U.S. Forest Service to serve as a Division Supervisor for the incident management team managing the Siskiyou Complex. He died while reconnoitering the Panther Fire. The incident management team to which he was assigned would have taken responsibility for managing the Panther Fire the next day.

  • Initial 24-hour Report
  • Expanded 72-hour Briefing
  • US Social Security Death Index: Daniel Bruce Packer
  • Accident Investigation (1,046 K pdf file)
  • Timeline (32 K pdf file)
  • Appendices (866 K pdf file)
  • Lessons Learned Center: Panther Incident Report Links
  • From FS Fire & Aviation Management Chief Tom Harbour to the Wildland Fire Community on 7/28/08:

This Sunday evening is a time of reflection for me. The emotion is sadness, the thoughts are contemplative. It is surely a time to think. Our minds are our greatest assets.

Given the wildland fire situation we are and will be facing the next couple months, and the stresses which will surely continue, my mind turns to those concepts we espouse in operational risk management. Leadership will come from the exercise of correct principles. We'll continue to look to the principles of accountability, integrity, team work, and open/continuous communication. We'll identify hazards, risks, and mitigations. We'll remember the key concepts of the operational risk management approach the Chief endorsed.
* accept risk only when benefits outweigh risks
* accept no unnecessary risk
* anticipate and manage risk
* make risk decisions at the right level

As we practice these principles at beginner to advanced levels, at first line to upper line supervisors, at type 5 to type 1 complexity, we'll be good.

Lets take time to honor those who have perished, to continually improve, and to recommit ourselves to supporting one another.

Tom

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Wildlandfire.com Links

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Media Articles and Reports

  • East Pierce Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Packer killed in California wildfire

    Jul 28, 2008 | Online Local WA Article

    Fire Chief Dan Packer of East Pierce Fire and Rescue died Saturday in a wildfire in northern California. The 49-year-old Packer was preparing to take over the division supervisor duties for the Panther Fire south of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County in northern California.

    Assistant Chief Russ McCallion said Packer was “scouting the fire when the incident happened. The fire blew up and blew over him. It was incredibly rapid and Chief Packer was overrun.”

    Packer was with another firefighter during the incident. Both deployed a shelter when the wind shifted and the fire overtook them. The other firefighter survived, but was injured.

    The Panther Fire is part of the Siskiyou complex fire near Yreka, Calif. The wildfire has burned more than 50,000 acres.

    East Pierce was informed of the chief’s possible death at 10 p.m. Saturday (more at the link...)
  • Washington state fire chief killed in California blaze

    Jul 27, 2008 | KMO News.com Online Article

    REDDING, Calif. - A second Washington state firefighter has perished while battling a Northern California wildfire, officials said. Daniel Packer, chief of East Pierce Fire & Rescue and past president of the Washington Fire Chiefs, was killed Saturday at about 3:30 p.m. while supervising firefighting efforts on the Panther Fire south of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County. His death was confirmed by Mike Brown, executive director of the Washington State Fire Chiefs, and Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.

    Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said the 250-acre fire was preventing crews from recovering the body to make a positive identification. But she said several other firefighters who escaped from the scene identified the victim as Packer, 49, of Lake Tapps.

    Russ McCallion, batallion chief with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, said he had been notified that Packer is missing and presumed dead. "He was overrun by the fire when the wind shifted unexpectedly," Schaeffer said. The news comes only a day after 18-year-old Andrew Jackson Palmer, a firefighter with the Olympic National Park, was killed by a falling tree while battling another wildfire in Trinity County.

    Gov. Chris Gregoire said she was "deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of two Washington state firefighters who were battling wildfires in Northern California." "My heart goes out to the family members and co-workers of Chief Packer and Firefighter Palmer," Gregoire said. "I ask all Washingtonians to keep the families and fire departments of these brave men in their thoughts and prayers." Flags at many fire stations around Washington state were lowered to half staff.

    Chief Packer was assigned to assume a supervisory position in the firefighting effort. He is a member of a Washington state-based incident management team that is deployed to major incidents such as large wildfires. Fire officials said supervising firefighting efforts on the front lines Saturday, and had been scheduled to take command of a large team of up to 1,000 firefighters on Sunday. A Forest Service investigation team is due to arrive on the Klamath National Forest by Monday, officials said.

    The 250-acre Panther Fire was started by a lightning strike Monday night about 15 miles south of Happy Camp and has since burned toward Ukonom Creek and the Klamath River. It is part of the Siskiyou Complex fire near Yreka that has burned more than 50,000 acres and as of Saturday, was 36 percent contained.

    The chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Abigail Kimbell, on a visit to Redding on Saturday, praised the courage of firefighters battling California's unprecedented wildland fires.Palmer, the first Washington state firefighter to die on the lines, was working his first day on the job when he was hit by a falling tree Friday. He had graduated in June from Port Townsend High School. Port Townsend High School Athletic Director Scott Ricardo called Palmer a "bright and shining star."

  • Press Release from East Pierce Fire and Rescue regarding Chief Packer's trip back home

    July 29, 2008

    Contact: Dina Sutherland, PIO, East Pierce Fire and Rescue, 18421 Old Buckley Highway, Bonney Lake, WA 98390

    Fallen fire chief coming home

    Bonney Lake – A homecoming ceremony for late East Pierce Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Dan Packer will be held tomorrow at the Tacoma-Narrows Airport located at 1202 26th Ave NW in Gig Harbor. The flight carrying his body is scheduled to arrive from California at 2 p.m.

    Chief Packer died in a California wildfire Saturday. He was deployed as part of a Washington-based incident management team to provide mutual aid and support to other jurisdictions experiencing large incidents or disasters.

    The event is limited to personnel from East Pierce Fire & Rescue, but the media is invited to attend. Please be aware that no interviews with East Pierce Fire & Rescue members or family of Chief Packer will be conducted. A Public Information Officer will be on site to direct media to a staging area.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Orleans CA Memorial Service. Hundreds Attend Service

    8/2/08 | Online article

  • Orleans CA Memorial Service Photos

    8/1/08 | 20 Photos

  • USFA Memorial Database: Dan Packer
  • Forest Service Today Half Staff
  • Eureka CA Fire Department Press Release
  • Memorial Today (Washington) for Fallen East Pierce Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Dan Packer

    Aug 15,2009 | Online article by Associated Press and KING Staff Reports updated Sep 29

    FEDERAL WAY, WA. - Firefighters, friends and dignitaries from across the state will pay their last respects Thursday to East Pierce County Fire and Rescue Chief Daniel Packer, who died last month while fighting a wildfire in California.

    A procession of fire trucks will lead Packer's casket from the Puyallup Fairgrounds to a 2:00 p.m. memorial service at the Christian Faith Center in Federal Way. The service will be broadcast in its entirety on KING5.com and NWCN.com.

    The funeral procession begins around 11:30 a.m. and is expected to cause traffic delays from Puyallup to Federal Way. More than 200 fire trucks and police cars will begin staging at the Puyallup Fairgrounds at 10:00 a.m. At 11:30 a.m., they'll begin the procession, which will run along a number of roads to the Christan Faith Center.

    Some of the major roads that will see a slowdown in traffic include State Route 512, State Route 167 and West Valley Highway. Other surface streets in the area will also see backups between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

    Packer was in California as part of an emergency management team when he was overrun by flames in the 250-acre Panther Fire, part of the Siskiyou Complex of fires which covered more than 8.4 square miles in the Klamath National Forest, on July 26.

    More than 100 firefighters stood with Packer's widow Marylee Packer when the Forest Service plane carrying his body landed at Tacoma Narrows Airport.

    Packer led a East Pierce department that employed 150 people and was the immediate past president of the Washington Fire Chief's Association.

    In his work with the Chief's Association, Packer was especially involved in state emergency mobilization and incident management team planning.

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    Packer formed a wildfire team to respond to blazes in more than 4,500 acres, nearly seven square miles, of undeveloped land in his own jurisdiction, East Pierce County Battalion Chief Russ McCallion said.

    The 49-year-old Packer grew up in Montana and began his professional career as bull rider on the rodeo circuit. He eventually switched to firefighting, married, and became the proud father of four daughters, and grandfather of two.

    Packer's colleagues are taking shifts, spending time with Packer's widow and family.

  • Spokane Fire Department honors fallen Washington fire chief

    Jul 27,2008 | Online article

    It is with the deepest sorrow and regret that I inform the Spokane Community that Chief Dan Packer, Fire Chief with East Pierce Fire & Rescue and the Washington Chief Association's Immediate Past President, died in a California Wildfire on Saturday, July 27, 2008. Chief Packer was deployed on Friday, July 26, 2008 and was serving as Division Supervisor in the Siskiyou mountains in Northern California. He was over run by the fire when the wind shifted unexpectedly.

    Chief Packer served for several years with me on the Board of the Washington State Fire Chief's and has been highly involved in State Mobilization, Incident Management Team Programs and assisting the east side of the State on incidents. Chief Packer was a distinguished leader, greatly honored firefighter whom his department and community respected and he was personally a good friend.

    Our Department's thoughts and prayers are with his family, the East Pierce Fire Department/Local 2877 & Local 3520 and the fire service to which he dedicated his life.

    All Spokane Fire Department Facility flags have been lowered to half-staff from time of announcement until 24 hours after conclusion of services. All SFD members' uniform badges are shrouded from time of announcement until 24 hours after conclusion of services.

  • Friend and Firefighter, Chief Dan Packer

    Jul 27, 2008 | Online blog Pam Roach Report

  • Fire Chief Dan Packer Procession, 2008: Photos from the city of Bonney Lake
  • In Memory of East Pierce Fire Chief Dan Packer

    Memorial page from East Pierce Fire and Rescue, includes bio and photo of his family.

  • Youtube slideshow of Dan's Procession and Memorial
  • Packer Everlasting Memorial Page

Photo Credit to East Pierce Fire and Rescue: Chief Dan Packer and firefighter Craig Williams during a training exercise in 2007.

Chief Dan Packer and firefighter Craig Williams Chief Dan Packer and firefighter Craig Williams

 

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Contributors to this article: Mellie, Doug Campbell, Sammie, John Miller, Rene Vanderhooft

 

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