Washington fire chief died of smoke inhalation and burns, autopsy confirms

An autopsy concluded that a Washington firefighter who died while scouting the Panther wildfire near Happy Camp, Calif., over the weekend was killed by smoke inhalation and burns.

The autopsy on Daniel Bruce Packer, 49, was done Tuesday morning in Redding, Calif., the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department said in a news release Tuesday.

Packer was fire chief of the East Pierce County Fire and Rescue Unit in Lake Tapps, Wash., not far from Enumclaw, and had just joined the team managing the 55,085-acre Siskiyou complex fire. He and another firefighter were surveying the Panther fire at about 3:15 p.m. Saturday in preparation to take over planning firefighting efforts Sunday.

The fire overran the pair in an area of brush and large hardwood and conifer trees last burned out in 1987. Packer's partner on the reconnaissance mission wasn't injured, said a preliminary report prepared by a national Forest Service investigative team assigned to study the accident and help prevent future incidents.

The team began investigating the accident on Monday. Team members will gather physical and photographic evidence, interview witnesses and prepare a report. An updated version is expected today and the final version must be submitted within 60 days after the accident.

Duane Lyon, spokesman for the Klamath National Forest's fire center, said details from the report, along with information about Packer's funeral arrangements, would be released today.

Lyon said the Panther fire had burned 2,056 acres and was zero percent contained as of 6 a.m. Tuesday. The fire had grown by more than 1,400 acres since Monday morning's survey, and continued to burn actively Tuesday.

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