OKANOGAN - A memorial service for Okanogan Fire Department Assistant Chief Christian Johnson will be Thursday, 24.
Johnson, who was burned in the Sept. 1 Spring Coulee Fire, died Oct. 2 at Harborview Medical Center, Seattle.
The service, which is open to the public, will be in the Okanogan County Fairgrounds Agriplex, 175 Rodeo Trail. A first responder procession will precede the service.
Organizers with Behind the Badge, a group that supports first responders injured or killed in the line of duty, is planning the service. Johnson’s family plays a key role in setting up and executing the service, say those involved.
Johnson, 55, volunteered with the Okanogan Fire Department for 20 years. He worked as building official for Okanogan, Tonasket and Oroville.
The venue and public parking open at 11:30 a.m.; organizers encourage people to carpool.
“Arriving and parking at the Agriplex before noon is highly recommended due to significant travel impacts,” said organizers. “Security will patrol the parking lot.”
Staging for first responders planning to participate in the procession runs from 8-10 a.m. at the Agriplex. Participants are asked to wear formal uniforms, and to bring water a snack or lunch.
The procession will go from the Agriplex north on Rodeo Trail to Eighth Avenue in Omak, then left on Jackson Street to Highway 155/Omak Avenue. Vehicles will go over the Central Avenue bridge to South Main Street, Fourth Avenue and Okoma Drive in Omak.
They’ll continue south on Elmway and North Second Avenue before turning left on Oak Street to re-cross the Okanogan River. The procession will turn north on Rodeo Trail and return to the fairgrounds.
“The public may view the procession from sidewalks along the procession route,” said organizers. “This is a great opportunity to pay respect to Assistant Chief Johnson. Please avoid any parking which encroaches on intersections. Fire apparatus need lots of space in order to make turns.”
Private vehicles are not allowed in the procession.
Motorists should expect traffic delays during the procession. Alternative routes are available.
Similar processions were held in Wenatchee in 2015 for three firefighters who died in the Twisp River Fire and in 1998 in Omak for Omak Police Officer Mike Marshall, who was killed while responding to a domestic disturbance.
Jerod Gavin, chief for the Okanogan station of Fire District No. 3, said only family members will speak at the service. He plans to be present, but will not speak.
Gavin’s retirement from the Okanogan city chief position was announced Oct. 15 by Mayor Jon Culp. Gavin said he plans to remain in the district position until the end of the month. (See related story, this issue.)
Johnson worked for Okanogan for more than 20 years, his tenure interrupted from November 2003 to May 2005 by a Washington National Guard deployment to Iraq.
He was retired from the Army and Washington National Guard, and was a sergeant in the Army.
“When the (fire) department went through its transition to a new chief, several years ago, (Johnson) stepped up into a leadership role helping the new chief transition into the department,” said Culp. “He was very active in the fire department and a mentor to many young rookies.”
As a city employee, he was “a great team player” who worked well with the public and city council, Culp said. “He was thorough, precise, but friendly. He was a friend.”
For the past six years, Johnson also was city fire marshal.