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Pike pole honors South King firefighter who died of HIV

South King Fire and Rescue Lt. Barry Hassell stands at attention during a ceremony for the Memorial Pike Pole, which honors firefighters who died in the line of duty. - Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
South King Fire and Rescue Lt. Barry Hassell stands at attention during a ceremony for the Memorial Pike Pole, which honors firefighters who died in the line of duty.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

The Memorial Pike Pole honors firefighters in Washington state who died in the line of duty.

On Monday, the honor guard from the Washington State Fallen Firefighters Memorial delivered the pole to South King Fire and Rescue.

Seven names were added to the pole this year, including Doug Waller, a South King firefighter who died in 2006 as a result of contracting HIV.

Waller's line-of-duty death from HIV is one of the first recognized cases of its kind in the nation.

Waller joined South King Fire as a volunteer in 1976. He was hired full time in 1981, and retired in 2000. Waller's family believed the infection resulted from treating an HIV-positive man who was bleeding profusely. Despite an initial negative test, Waller did not realize he had contracted HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — until about two months before his death at age 59.

The Memorial Pike Pole includes a ribbon for each Washington firefighter who died in the line of duty during the past 15 years. The pole travels to fire districts around the state.

South King Fire and Rescue will display the pole in the front lobby of its headquarters on 1st Avenue South for the next 20 days. The state honor guard will take the pole back to Olympia, then to Spokane Valley.

The community is welcome to honor the state's fallen firefighters and celebrate their commitment to public safety.

"The pole is here to represent those ideals," said Mark Morales, a Tukwila firefighter and honor guard commander who delivered the pike pole to SKFR with fellow honor guardsman Erne Lincoln.

The majority of cases involving line-of-duty deaths result from presumptive illnesses related to fire service — including cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

In July, South King firefighter John Moncrief died at age 59 from cancer caused by long-term exposure to toxic chemicals. His name will be added to the pike pole next year, said Gordie Olson, assistant chief.

Two other South King firefighters have died in the line of duty, according to the fire district. Volunteer firefighter Eugene Parsons died in 1969 when the fire truck he was riding in collided with a utility pole. Volunteer firefighter Fred Auer Sr. died in 1966 after suffering a heart attack fighting a blaze in Lake Grove.

Honored in 2012

The following firefighters were honored April 22 by the Washington Fallen Firefighters Memorial service in Olympia:

• Firefighter J. Douglas Waller, South King Fire and Rescue

• Deputy Chief Jesse Youngs, Seattle Fire Department

• Firefighter Jeffrey Birt, Seattle Fire Department

• Firefighter Matthew Durham, Woodinville Fire and Rescue

• Fire Chief Mathew Hadaller, Lewis County Fire District 3

• Battalion Chief Garet Rasmussen, Chelan County Fire District 1 (note: Rasmussen was a 1992 graduate of Decatur High School in Federal Way)

• Engineer George Sly, Spokane Valley Fire Department

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This report contains information from previous Mirror reports.

 

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