Just over 40 years after Chief Chris Connor joined the Fall City Fire Department, the long-time leader will be handing the reins to a new chief.
Connor has been with the department since Feb. 25, 1981, and will be retiring on Feb. 26, 2021. Over that time, he’s seen the department grow from an all-volunteer force to having 14 full-time employees serving residents of the Snoqualmie Valley.
“I’ve enjoyed the heck out of all the people that I’ve been able to work with over the years,” he said.
Connor’s family moved to the Snoqualmie Valley in 1968 after his father, who served more than two decades in the Navy, decided to put down roots. His mother was born in the town of Snoqualmie Falls. Connor attended schools in the Valley, and graduated from Mount Si High School.
After graduating high school, he began working for Boeing. During his commute to work, he carpooled with a volunteer firefighter from the Fall City station who kept suggesting Connor come down and look into volunteering.
Eventually, Connor decided to take the man up on his offer, and in February 1981, he made his first appearance at the station. By that July, he’d been offered a volunteer position and worked in that capacity for nine years while he continued working for Boeing and later as a subcontractor while going to school and raising a family.
“So I was a pretty busy guy,” Connor said.
As a volunteer firefighter, he rose through the ranks to captain and helped run drills and organize the department. The fire station eventually decided to hire a fire chief, so he threw his hat in the ring and was offered the position in February 1990. He became only the second full-time employee of the department, and has served as the fire chief ever since.
Looking back at his time with the department, he said it has changed a lot since the early days. Two big accomplishments came in 2004, when they were able to begin staffing firefighters around the clock at the station. The station was also remodeled that year.
In his retirement, Connor is looking forward to getting around to some home projects that he hasn’t had time for. His first job was running a paper route at age 13, and he kept working afterward.
“Since I was 13 years old, I really either had something going there or had a job. I’ve never really been unemployed, and the most that I’ve ever been able to get away from work has only been two times where I’ve been able to do almost three weeks,” he said.
Being a fire chief means he’s never fully off work, he said. But he also predicts that boredom could set in after a month or so, and hinted he may pick up some part-time work if that happens.
Connor’s departure comes a couple of months after another longtime firefighter, Capt. Ken Larson, retired in late December.
Chief Brian Culp will head the department, and came on board in February, allowing a month of overlap between the incoming and outgoing chiefs.