Memorial service honors veteran firefighter

A veteran firefighter who died a hero was remembered by hundreds at a memorial service on Thursday.

Assistant Fire Chief Christian Johnson passed away earlier this month from injuries he sustained while fighting the Spring Coulee Fire.

Johnson was fighting the fire in early September when flames overcame him. He was flown to Harborview Medical Center where he later passed away.

READ: Veteran firefighter burned in Spring Coulee Fire passes away

On Thursday, a procession of law enforcement vehicles and first responders left the Okanogan County Fairgrounds and headed north to Omak, returning to the fairgrounds around 11:00 a.m.

At his memorial service, friends and family remembered Johnson as someone who spent a lot of time outdoors. No matter the weather, they said, that’s where he’d be.

Rebecca Reagan knew Johnson, and said he was a good man.

“When I worked in the Chevron here in town, he would come in the mornings and get breakfast and be ready to go fishing,” she said.

Some who went to the service never met Johnson, but are part of the brotherhood of the fire service.

“We’re just honoring his memory. He fell in the line of duty doing, protecting his community,” said Lt. Mike Prevost, with Poulsbo Fire Department.

Although Johnson’s end of watch was October 2, his final call was Thursday.

“To me and to everybody who knew him, he was truly something special. A very rare man. If you knew him, you know exactly what I’m talking about,” said Sheena Zacherle, Johnson’s daughter.

It was a ceremony that signified the end of a long road for the family, with hundreds showing them they’re not alone.

“This is a big loss for Okanogan. Not just the fire department. A big loss for Okanogan, period,” Reagan said.

Johnson served with the Okanogan Fire Department for 20 years. Before that, he was a sergeant in the U.S. Army and was deployed with the Washington State National Guard in Baghdad in 2003.