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Memorial honors Federal Way firefighters from 1960s who died on duty

Patrick Eugene Parsons’ life ended on Jan. 2, 1969. The 20-year-old was riding in a fire truck responding to a chimney fire when it skidded on patch of ice at 21st Avenue Southwest and Dash Point Road. The newspaper in which this photo appeared is unknown.  - Courtesy image
Patrick Eugene Parsons’ life ended on Jan. 2, 1969. The 20-year-old was riding in a fire truck responding to a chimney fire when it skidded on patch of ice at 21st Avenue Southwest and Dash Point Road. The newspaper in which this photo appeared is unknown.
— image credit: Courtesy image

Two former Federal Way volunteer firefighters who died in the line of duty more than 40 years ago will be honored by South King Fire and Rescue with memorial plaques at fire stations near where each man served.

Fred Auer Sr. and Patrick Eugene Parsons died in separate incidents in 1966 and 1969, respectively. The line of duty death of former firefighter Doug Waller, who contracted HIV on the job and died in 2006, inspired South King to memorialize Auer and Parsons.

“It was a good time to pay the respects that they deserved,” said spokeswoman Kendra Kay.

The plaques were unveiled at a South King Fire Commissioners meeting in January, and were displayed as of Monday morning. Waller’s memorial is at Station 65, 4966 S. 298th St. in Auburn, where he served.

Auer’s memorial will be hung at Station 66, which is in the Redondo area in Des Moines. Auer was a resident of that area, and served out of a nearby firehouse that’s no longer standing. Auer had been a volunteer since 1948.

An obituary for Auer appeared in the Feb. 18 edition of the Seattle Daily Times, alongside death notices for 18-year-old Vietnam War veterans and a 92-year-old “Auburn pioneer” who moved to the city in 1874. However, South King Fire records state that Auer died on Feb. 16; his memorial plaque bears that date.

According to the obituary, Auer, 52, had collapsed at the scene of a house fire in the Redondo area. Auer died en route to a Tacoma hospital early on Feb. 18. He was a fire commissioner and “captain of first aid” of King County Fire District No. 32, according to the obituary.

The obituary lists biographical details of Auer’s life: he was an elder at Steel Lake Presbyterian Church, a clerk for Northern Pacific Railroad and was active in the Boy Scouts, having attained the Silver Beaver award.

Parsons’ life ended calamitously on Jan. 2, 1969. The 20-year-old was riding in a fire truck responding to a chimney fire when it skidded on patch of ice at the intersection of 21st Avenue Southwest and Dash Point Road. The truck smashed into a light pole, crushing the passenger side of the truck where Parsons was seated.

A newspaper account of the accident reported that Parsons was ejected from the truck and died four hours after the accident at “Swedish General Hospital” — now Swedish Medical Center — “without recovering consciousness.”

The article quoted then-Chief Bud Thorsen as saying the truck was traveling 35 mph and sustained $12,000 in damage. Parsons was originally from Wenatchee and was a student at Tacoma Community College. A report in the Seattle Daily Times said that Parsons’ father was also a firefighter. News reports from the time support that the weather the week of Jan. 2 was cold and snowy.

Two other firefighters — Harold Peters and Donald Moore — were injured in the crash, but survived. Kay said that Parsons’ memorial will be hung at Station 63, which is at the intersection of 21st Avenue and Southwest Campus Drive.

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