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Connor celebrates 25 years of fire service

On Feb. 25 Fall City Fire Chief Chris Connor celebrated 25 years with the Fall City Fire Department, also known as King County Fire District 27. In actuality, he has a total of about 35 years with the department, having volunteered for almost 10 years before being permanently hired.

Growing up, Connor's father was in the Navy and the family lived up and down the West Coast before moving to Fall City in 1968. Connor's mother is a lifelong resident of Fall City, with most of her relatives still residing there. A graduate of Mount Si High School, Connor jokes that he's related to about half the town.

When Connor was about 20, he was recruited by another firefighter to volunteer for the department. "I was working nights at Boeing and was available during the day," Connor recalled. "They were short-handed."

Back then the department only had one paid position: fire chief. The department relied entirely on volunteers to provide service to the area.

"It never occurred to me [to be a firefighter] until I was recruited," Connor said. "I decided to give it a try and realized how interesting and challenging it really is. It is definitely a calling."

He volunteered for the department for about 10 years while working at Boeing and another aeronautical company.

Connor was officially hired by the department as an emergency medical technician on Feb. 25, 1981. After working his way up the ranks, when former Fall City Chief Mac Pearson retired on Dec. 31, 1990, Connor was appointed to take his place on Jan. 1, 1991.

Pearson, with almost 40 years of service with the department, speaks highly of his replacement. "Chris is just a super guy. They were the luckiest department in the world to get Chris Connor."

The Fall City Fire Department opened on May 7, 1946. The department serves a 24-square-mile area in and around Fall City and receives an average of about 700 calls per year.

The department consists of nine paid firefighters, the chief, one administrative assistant, 15 volunteers and three new recruits in training. The department's fleet includes two engines, two aid cars, a water tender, two boats and two other trucks.

Connor said he enjoys his job. "There are things that happen almost every day that you'll never forget. There's something about helping someone when they really, truly need it."

He also appreciates being able to live and work in the same community. "I work with an outstanding group of people, the highest caliber, and they are just great. We are fortunate that the community here is so supportive."

Josie Williams, public information and education officer with Eastside Fire & Rescue and fire commissioner with the Fall City Fire Department, said the community has benefited from Connor's dedication and commitment. "The fire chief in a small department must be well-versed in many areas - safety standards, personnel training, financial challenges and the laws that govern the fire district - and Chris has managed to strike a balance in all these areas."

Connor appreciates the support he has received over the years from his wife of 23 years, Betty. "They say behind every man there is a woman - there is for me, and she has always been there." The two are the parents of three grown sons.

Connor will be recognized for his 25 years of service at an annual banquet to be held in December.

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