Richard R. Wheeler

Richard R. Wheeler

Firefighter Richard R. Wheeler, age 31, Firefighter Andrew G. Zajac, age 26, and Firefighter Thomas N. Zbyszewski, age 20, of the USDA Forest Service, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest died after they were trapped by rapidly deteriorating fire conditions while fighting the Twisp Wildfire on August 19, 2015.

Devin A. Weaver

Devin A. Weaver‚ 21‚ seasonal firefighter‚ U.S. Forest Service‚ Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest‚ died July 10‚ 2001‚ while fighting the Thirtymile Fire.

A Little League All-Star‚ he played on his high school varsity baseball team and at Yakima Valley Community College.

Weaver loved the outdoors and was described by his family as intelligent‚ courageous‚ thoughtful‚ and kind.

Jessica L. Johnson

Jessica L. Johnson was a special daughter‚ sister‚ friend‚ and comrade. She was strong in body and mind and spirit. She loved her family and friends and they loved her and always will. She was an American girl with attributes of kindness‚ compassion‚ athleticism‚ dependability‚ fortitude‚ loyalty‚ zeal‚ humor‚ tenderness and thoughtfulness.

She was raised in the country and developed a love for nature and animals. She enjoyed many activities‚ camping‚ fishing‚ water skiing‚ boating‚ hiking‚ swimming‚ and running. She loved life and its challenges. She lived each day to its fullest.

In just 19 years she accomplished more than many adults. At the time of her death Jessica was an employee of the U.S. Forest Service. She was a junior at Central Washington University majoring in Food Science and Nutrition.

In 1999 until the time of her death she volunteered as a firefighter for West Valley Fire District of Yakima County. She worked for the department of Natural Resources as a Firefighter during the summer of 2000. Jessica loved being a Firefighter; it meant everything to her to help other people. She had set many goals for her young life and she was true to herself.

Her unselfish dedication to serving others‚ never asking for anything in return‚ but always willing to give‚ makes us proud to honor her as our daughter. The grief and the loss felt by her family and friends are beyond words.

Jessica was the sunshine of her family’s life for 20 years. That love will remain in our hearts as long as we shall live. We will cherish her memory forever and we will never forget.

Karen Lee FitzPatrick

Submitted by her mother

Karen Lee FitzPatrick‚ 18 years old‚ was just three weeks out of high school. She had graduated on June 8‚ 2001 from West Valley High School in Yakima‚ WA. Karen was known for her dazzling smile‚ contagious laughter and ‘the most beautiful eyes in the world!’ She was also a member of the prestigious Honor Society and a noteworthy weight-lifter. She was known for her artistic and musical talents as well as her fabulous singing voice. In her younger years‚ 1990-1994‚ Karen was quite the muscular and quick soccer champion with her team‚ The Bobcats. She and the Bobcats won the American Cup in Seattle in 1994. What people knew most prominently about Karen was her dynamic faith in her Lord Jesus Christ that shone from her face and from her life like a bright shining beacon. Karen was a fountain of life to all who knew her! In two different places on the wall of her room was handwritten‚ ‘Jesus‚ help me to love you with my life.’ In this‚ she succeeded greatly.

Karen’s walls are covered with inspirational posters and wise sayings. Her friends sometimes still ask to visit and view them. Here is a sample: ‘In God‚ understanding becomes a state of heart rather than an achievement of the mind.’ The calendar in Karen’s room or ‘Karen Street’ is frozen on the month of July 2001. Her keys are on the table and her comfy shoes are sitting out. One would think that she may walk in at any moment. On her bulletin board are dates to remember‚ friends’ photos and a few more scriptures and sayings. Here are a few samples: ‘Make no little plans‚ as they have no magic to stir men’s blood’. D. Burnham‚ Chicago Architect. ‘Holiness is not a feeling – it is the end product of obedience.’ Here is another‚ ‘Purity is not a gift – it is the result of repentance and a serious pursuit of God.’

Karen had an odd premonition beforehand that she would die. About twenty minutes before the blow up‚ she lifted her camera above her head and with a big smile took her own photo. She had looked up to God thinking‚ ‘See you soon!’ She did.

Eyewitnesses know that Karen died on her knees in her fire shelter‚ praying with the other three firefighters who perished alongside her. They were Jessica Johnson‚ 19‚ Devin Weaver‚ 21 and Tom Craven‚ 30. She also cried out for the safety of those down below on the road. They did live. Karen and her three brave firefighter comrades died from smoke inhalation at 5:30pm on July 10‚ 2001. From the blowup originating at their location of death‚ a huge cloud formed above them‚ known as the Thirtymile Fire Cloud. At the top of this cloud are four linear steps‚ so it is also called the Stairway to Heaven picture.

The site where this episode occurred in the Chewuch River Canyon in Winthrop‚ WA is now a national monument. At the visitor’s center on Highway 20 before entering the monument‚ visitors can obtain a color brochure with the aforementioned photo on the front and biographies of the four who perished inside. There is also a map of how to navigate to the site located on West Chewuch Road. Karen will always be known as the girl who prayedƒespecially at that moment‚ for the others. The monument to her gravesite bears an etching of the stair-step cloud with a poem entitled ‘The Sign in the Cloud’. This monument can be viewed at West Hills memorial park in Yakima‚ WA. There are also life size bronze busts of the four firefighters in a memorial park in front of the Naches Ranger station on Highway 12‚ Naches‚ WA. This is where they were based out of and friends who work there still remember them.

It has been learned from USFS service records and National Fallen Firefighter of America sources‚ that at the time of her death‚ Karen was the youngest female career firefighter to ever die in the line of duty in America.

Those interested can learn more about Karen L. FitzPatrick from these sources: ‘Medal of Valor Firefighters’‚ by Michael Middleton‚ MacGraw-Hill Publishers (Chapter 16) or ‘Fire in the Canyon’ by John Maclean‚ to be released Spring 2006‚ Holt Publishers. Internet sources: Click on North Cascades Fire 07/10/01 and then on Karen L. FitzPatrick.

Tom L. Craven

Tommy Lee Craven was a well-respected member of the community‚ an exceptional athlete at Cle Elum Roslyn High School‚ the College of Redwoods and Central Washington University from which he graduated in 1997.

His career with the U.S. Forest service began in 1989 on the Cle Elum ranger district initial attack fire suppression crew the year before he graduated from high school. Tom spent five seasons in Cle Elum‚ two summers on the initial attack crew‚ and three seasons on the district fire engine.

In 1994‚ Tom moved on to the Naches Ranger District where he worked on both engines and initial attack crews. He became a permanent employee in 1999 as assistant foreman on the initial attack crew.

Tom was a family man; son‚ brother‚ husband‚ and father leaving behind wife Evelyn‚ with whom he was making a home filled with love for daughter Tomisha and son Tshaun. Tom was always concerned about his wife‚ parents‚ brothers‚ and sister‚ but he was extremely proud of Tomisha and Tshaun‚ who brought joy to him every day.

Tom was a man of many endeavors whether he was working socializing‚ deejaying‚ or playing football‚ his enthusiasm‚ sense of humor‚ and strength of character made Tom a person no one will ever forget!

Tom was a very hard worker as evidenced by what he achieved in his life. When Tom was helping someone with a job he would work side by side with him/her until it was done‚ never quitting or giving up no matter how difficult or time consuming the task.

When Tom died on the Thirty Mile fire‚ he taught us many of life’s lessons in a very short amount of time. He will always be in the hearts of his friends and family. Men like Tom Craven come around once in a lifetime. We are fortunate to have known Big Poppa.

-Virginia Craven