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Line of Duty Deaths

“Our hearts are saddened by the tragic death of a veteran firefighter. Such an incident serves to remind us of the fact that there are citizens who will face the unexpected in the line of duty, whether it be the taming of a fire or the protection of the citizens of the community.

These men are dedicated to our welfare, beyond the ordinary call of duty. Let us in turn make known to them our deep appreciation for their dedication to the loving service of their fellow citizens.”
Father Barry - Fire Department Chaplain - 1980

Fire Equipment Operator John Knighten - June 30, 2013

John lost his three year battle with multiple myeloma cancer on June 30, 2013. He was 45 and a 19-year veteran of the Spokane Fire Department. John graduated from the Spokane Regional Fire Recruit Training Academy where he was recognized as the “Top Recruit” of his class. He spent most of his career working at Station 4 but also worked out of Station 2. John received SFD's Purple Heart award on June 6, 2013 where he was specifically recognized for his courage and his inspiration to the many people who had the privilege to work with him. He is survived by his loving wife Shawna and three daughters, Ashley, Kasey and Kiley.

Firefighter Paul J. Heidenreich - September 12, 1982

Paul Heidenreich was working at Station 1. He was 27 years old with just eighteen months on the department. Paul lived at 6520 North Normandie. He was not married.

Firefighter Heidenreich was assigned to Snorkle 1 the night of the Tri State fire. It would become the third four-alarm fire in two years for the Spokane Fire Department. Paul had gone to the roof with the snorkle's crew to “open” the roof. When they had opened the skylight, they found a large volume of fire below them. The three firefighters turned and headed back to their ladder when the roof collapsed. Firefighters Weldon Wolfe and Jim McNamee made it back to the wall where they hung for a moment before falling into the fire. At the same time, Paul had fallen into the midst of the fire and was buried beneath some debris. Through a superhuman effort on their part and that of other firefighters on the scene, Firefighters Wolfe and McNamee were able to escape through a window in the wall. Meanwhile, a crew tried to advance a lead into the fire and find Paul. The fire was too large and Paul's body was hidden from view. He was found a few hours later. Eight other firefighters were injured that night. Firefighter Wolfe received additional burns when he returned to try to rescue Heidenreich.

Captain Robert G. Hanna - March 2, 1980

Robert Hanna was the Captain on Ladder 7. He had 22 years with the department and was 47 years old. He lived with his wife, Carolyn, at 4312 South Pondra Drive. They had three sons, one of which is a firefighter.

Captain Hanna was one of 65 firefighters fighting the first four-alarm fire in thirty years in Spokane. The Zukor Building had been “fully involved” with fire when the first companies arrived. The firefight had been won when the accident took place. Firefighter Bob Green and Captain Hanna were in the bucket of Ladder Tower 7 directing a water stream into the smoldering ruins when the front of the building collapsed, hitting them with falling debris. Captain Hanna was hit by a piece of the cornice and fatally injured. Firefighter Green was hospitalized with back injuries. Captain Hanna was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital accompanied by his son, Firefighter Robert Hanna, where he died from his head injuries.

Firefighter Leroy A. Mackey - January 19, 1966

Leroy Mackey was assigned to Station 4. He had been on the department ten years and was 36 years old. He and his wife, Margaret, lived with their four girls at 1628 West Jackson.

The fire was in the basement of Saad's Shoe Store at Main and Wall. It would be fought by 223 men before it was over. Leroy was with a crew that entered the basement through a side walk opening and down a ladder to get to the fire. The smoke blocked all vision. By the time they had reached the basement another crew was coming down the basement steps from the alley. At this time a back draft took place. In their efforts to escape the heat and fire, one of the men with Mackey fell down the ladder, knocking the others down. In the confusion and smoke several of the men were disoriented. When the first man escaped to the street level he said, “You had better get them out of there . . . they are going to die.” (Spokesman Review, 1966).

Before other firefighters could get them out, several were overcome by smoke. Firefighter Mackey could not be revived and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Nine other firefighters were hospitalized. Firefighter Mackey had been hired to take the place of Captain Doyle, killed ten years earlier.

Captain Leonard W. Doyle - June 2, 1956

Leonard Doyle was the Captain at Station 4. At age 37 he had 15 years on the department. He and his wife, Freda, lived with their four children at 2333 South Grand Boulevard.

A fire in the shoe store on the street level of the Peyton Building eventually went to a third alarm, working fifteen engines and eighty firefighters. Captain Doyle and six other firefighters were advancing a hose lead into the fire when the floor collapsed from beneath them, plunging them all into the basement. Some of the firefighters already in the basement were trapped and injured by the falling debris. Captain Doyle was crushed under a falling safe. Seventeen firefighters were sent to the hospital and twenty-five others were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. Many were injured trying to free Captain Doyle. Many of the men said it was the worst fire they had ever been to.

Superintendent of Alarms George T. Stewart - February 2, 1947

George Stewart was in charge of maintenance and repair of the fire department alarm system. He had been with the Alarm Division for five years. He was 39 years old. He lived at 1617 West Seventh Ave with his wife and five children.

A bad windstorm had blown a Washington Water Power line down at 17th and Fisk. It had fallen across fire department alarm system wires. While trying to secure the power line in a safe position to protect any citizens in the area, he accidentally touched the 2350-volt power line and was killed instantly. First aid efforts by the inhalator crew were futile. Chief Blamey and a Fire Department Honor Guard turned out for his funeral.

Captain Walter F. Gustafson - December 26, 1944

Walter Gustafson was a Captain at Station 7. At age 49 he had been on the department for 25 years. He and his wife, Rose, lived at 2210 West Sharp. They had two sons. He belonged to American Legion Post #9.

Captain Gustafson had responded with his crew on a second alarm to a smoky fire in the Grimmer Lomax Warehouse at Wall and Railroad Avenue. He was last seen with his crew advancing a hose lead on the Fifth Floor. The smoke conditions were terrible. He was found later when the smoke cleared, near the top of the stairs on the Fifth Floor. He died from smoke inhalation. Six other firefighters were overcome by smoke. Dan Bowton and Bob Snoddy were injured when they had to use a rope to get out of the Fifth Floor early in the fire because of smoke and heat.

Alarm Operator Jesse L. Booher - February 25, 1942

Jesse Booher was an Alarm Operator at City Hall. He had 25 years with the department and was 53 years old. He and his wife lived at 6027 North Post. They had one son.

Firefighter Booher had been overcome by smoke at a fire in 1938. At that time he developed some serious heart trouble. The doctor recommended he be given other duties. He was then assigned to the Alarm Board. The day of his death he had claimed of feeling ill early in the day. He was found dead at his post that afternoon.

Firefighter Thomas E. Sparrow - July 15, 1939

Thomas Sparrow was a Hoseman on Engine 16. He had nineteen years on the job, and was 54 years old. He lived with his wife and two sons at 3204 North Monroe. He was a member of Woodmen of the World and the El Katif Shriners.

Engine 16 was at a house fire at 3918 North Howard. Thomas had been sent a block away to make a hose connection. He collapsed upon returning. “Captain N.C. Wallace said he died of exertion after making the hose connection.” (Chronicle, 1939) It was said that he took a lot of smoke before doing his work outside. He was diagnosed as having died from heart failure. The inhalator crew had worked on him for half an hour, but to no avail.

Alarm Operator Charles Bunnell - October 6, 1930

Charles Bunnell worked on the Alarm Board, then at Station 5. He had been with the department twelve years and was 44 years old. He lived at 1915 North Oak with his wife and children, two boys and a girl.

Truckman Phil Lohrey found Operator Bunnell “in a dying condition” in the Alarm Room. He was rushed to the Emergency Hospital where he passed away. It was said to be a heart attack that he died from.

Firefighter William A. Hutchinson - May 3, 1924

William Hutchinson was assigned to Station 4. He had been on the department four years and was 26 years old. He was not married and lived with his parents at 330 South Howard.

The biggest fire since the Great Fire of 1889 was burning at the McGoldrick Lumber Yard located at 903 East Broadway. It had gone to a general alarm and all available pumpers were needed. William was with a crew sent to Station 1 to get an old steam pumper and bring it to the fire. Fireman Hutchinson was steering the steamer, which was being pulled by the other fire truck. As they made the turn on Trent at the Schade Brewery, the steamer's iron wheels skidded and hit the curb. The steamer wobbled for forty feet and then turned over. William was thrown ten feet and hit his head. He never regained consciousness and died later at Sacred Heart Hospital.

Lieutenant Warren S. Willis - January 11, 1920

Warren Willis was a Lieutenant at Station 5 in the “new” City Hall. He had been on the department for ten years. He and his wife lived at 1412 North Post. He belonged to the Eagles Lodge.

Alarm Operator, Thomas O'Rourke, was on duty at Station 5. It was about 12:30 a.m. when he heard a loud thud out on the apparatus floor. He went to investigate and found Lieutenant Willis on the floor at the bottom of the sliding pole. He was rushed to the Emergency Hospital on the Fourth Floor of City Hall where he died ten minutes later.

It was reported that he was walking to the lavatory and stepped through the pole hole, unable to see it in the darkness.

Firefighter E. G. Deardorf - September 21, 1914

E. G. Deardorf was a Truckman on Truck 9. He was on the department just nine months and was 32 years old. He was married and had a five-year-old child. They lived at 624 East Bridgeport. He was a member of the Oddfellows Club and the United Artisans.

The crew from Station 9 was practicing with their ladders on the Auditorium Building at Post and Main. Truckman Deardorf had ascended the building with another fireman using a pompier ladder. They had descended to within twenty feet of the ground when the ladder tipped sideways. The other fireman was unable to hold it and Deardorf fell the twenty feet to the sidewalk, striking his head. He was taken to the Emergency Hospital where he died from a skull fracture about an hour later.

Firefighter Henry J. Maynard - July 25, 1909

Henry Maynard worked on Hose Wagon 5. He had only been on the department for three months and was 28 years old. Henry's wife was pregnant with their first child. They lived at 2227 East Sinto.

Responding from Station 5 to an alarm at the Gandy Hotel on Sprague, Hose Wagon 5 fell in behind Hook and Ladder 1 coming from their station at Sprague and Washington. At the corner of First and Lincoln, Hook and Ladder 1's horses slipped and fell. Fireman Maynard was riding on the side of the Hose Wagon. Driver Foster of 5's Hose Wagon tried to swerve but was too close and they struck the back of Ladder 1. Henry was smashed against the ladders. He suffered a large gash in his side and a crushed pelvis. He died 1 1/2 hours later at the Emergency Hospital. He was conscious until the end.

Firefighter Herman A. Mero - March 6, 1905

Herman “Bud” Mero was assigned to Station 3. He was the Assistant Fire Department Electrician. He had been on the department eleven years and was 35 years old. Bud was married and had a three-year-old son. They lived at 811 West Spofford.

Fireman Mero had been the Foreman on Truck 5, but requested a transfer because he didn't like the responsibility of leadership. On the day of his death he was helping the Department Electrician, R. L. Rundle, remove some motors from the water tank on Cooks Hill. A chain they were using became stuck and as Bud bent over to free it, he slipped and fell 45 feet landing on his head. He remained conscious for hours, almost until his death at Sacred Heart Hospital. While waiting for the emergency squad he told Rundle of the love he had for his family.

Firefighter John F. Lynch - October 8, 1902

John Lynch was a nozzleman on Hose Wagon 3. He had been on the department five years and lived at Station 3. John was not married and had no children. He belonged to the Elks Lodge

Victoria, B.C. “A horrible accident took place here today at an exhibition being given by Edward Hooper and John Lynch, the crack lifesaving team of the Spokane Fire Brigade, who were attending the Fire Chiefs Convention. Fireman Lynch fell to his death as he and Hooper fell from the second floor.” (Spokesman Review, 1902) The two men were hooked together with their life belts and passing their pompier ladder to the window they were in when they slipped and fell from the window. Hooper landed on top of Lynch and was only slightly injured.

“He was a man of some means, but liked the life of a fireman.” (Spokesman Review, 1902) He gave half his salary to charity. All the fire apparatus was at his funeral.

Captain George T. Chapman - May 25, 1894

George Chapman was the Captain at Station 2, then at Main and Division. He had been on the department four years and was 27 years old. He belonged to the Ancient Order of Foresters and the Myrtle Lodge of Knights of Pythias.

Captain Chapman had “the boys” out training on the aerial ladder at Station 2. They had used it at various angles and had just set it at a low angle, and some of the men said it looked unsafe. Captain Chapman said he would show them it was safe by climbing it. He was at the top when the tip broke off and he fell 63 feet to the ground. He died instantly from a broken neck.

“He was among the best known of the firemen and has always enjoyed the respect and confidence of the Chief and his comrades.” (Spokesman Review, 1894) Fire and police departments formed an honor guard with the Knights of Pythias uniformed rank at his funeral.