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Jesse Youngs, Chief (Seattle FD)

Chief Youngs

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Seattle firefighters mourn Deputy Chief Jesse Youngs, 53

Seattle firefighters on Thursday held a memorial for Deputy Chief Jesse Youngs, who died Oct. 22 after battling brain cancer. A Puyallup native, Youngs joined the Seattle Fire Department in 1978 and during his 32-year career worked at some of Seattle’s busiest fire stations.

By Susan Gilmore


They marched in with their bagpipes and drums, this team of Seattle firefighters, while a fireboat in Lake Union sent up a huge spray.

“He’s watching down and thinks it pretty darned cool,” said Deputy Chief Earl Sodeman as hundreds of firefighters crowded into the Naval Reserve Building on Lake Union to honor one of their own, Deputy Chief Jesse Youngs, who died Oct. 22 of brain cancer. Fire officials believe his job may have led to his death.

“He was wise beyond his years, and he was like the boy next door,” said Sodeman, who worked with Deputy Chief Youngs for many of his 32 years with the Seattle Fire Department.

Deputy Chief Youngs, a Puyallup native, joined the Seattle Fire Department in 1978 and during his 32-year career worked at some of Seattle’s busiest fire stations. In 2004, he was named a deputy chief and was in charge of the department’s training division. He later became deputy chief of operations, the designated incident commander at all significant emergency incidents in the city.

He was chosen by his fellow firefighters as chief of the year in 2007 and was vice president of the fire Chief’s Union Local 2898.

Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean said Deputy Chief Youngs came from a firefighting family. His father was a firefighter in Puyallup.

“He was an asset to the department,” said Dean. “These are words used again and again. Jesse was a visionary.”

In 2001, Deputy Chief Youngs made a confession, Dean said. He’d driven to a fire and parked his car to block traffic. But he’d neglected to put the car in park or use the emergency break, so it rolled into an unoccupied car. Even with that, said Dean, “You could see the wry smile always on his face.”

Deputy Chief Youngs was an avid hunter and fisherman and had a passion for golf. One day in late September, when he was already quite ill, he was “kidnapped” by Deputy Chief Robert Lomax and other friends. They put him in Lomax’s 1955 Chevy and cruised his favorite haunts in Puyallup, stopping to pick up his favorite coffee.

Thursday, with silence in the Naval Reserve Building, the bells rang 5-5-5-5, the symbol for end of duty. A voice rang out, “Deputy Chief Youngs. Fire Dispatch. Acknowledge.” He’d answered his last alarm, said Sodeman.

Deputy Chief Youngs is survived by his wife, Marie Youngs, and daughters, Maegen Youngs and Heather Stafford, all of Puyallup; his sister, Linda Youngs, of Puyallup, and brother Bill Youngs, of Bozeman, Mont.

The family asks that memorials in his name be sent to the Seattle’s Bravest Charity, 517 Second Ave. W., Seattle, WA 98119, or the David H. Jacobs Foundation, named after a former Seattle firefighter who also died of cancer. The foundation helps firefighters’ families deal with end-of-life issues. The address is P.O. Box 7071, Bellevue, WA 98008.

A private family service was held last week in Puyallup.

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