Eastside Fire & Rescue honors late volunteer firefighter
February 28, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Colleagues remember longtime Eastside Fire & Rescue Volunteer Battalion Chief John Waltosz as a firefighter committed to the agency and public service, even as the landscape and the fire department changed.
Waltosz, 83, died Feb. 19 after a long career in EFR and, earlier, in a rural fire district and future EFR partner.
“He had tremendous respect for the fire service, and he wanted to make sure that everyone else who joined the fire service had that same sort of respect for the job, service to the public, service to the customers,” EFR Battalion Chief Dave McDaniel said.
Waltosz imparted a respect for the agency on fledgling members as the United States Army veteran recruited and trained residents to respond to fires and other emergencies.
“When new volunteers came into the agency, he always took them under his wing,” McDaniel said. “He really set them in the direction of what the fire service is as a volunteer, this is how it’s going to run. He was just a stickler for that.”
Waltosz lived near Station 78 — in the Coalfield area near Renton city limits — and responded to calls in the Coalfield, Lake Kathleen, Maple Hills and May Valley areas before retiring in November 1998. Waltosz started as a Fire District 10 volunteer firefighter 33 years earlier in January 1965. (Fire District 10 later joined EFR as a partner organization.)
“John will be missed for his devotion to his family, his neighbors and community service,” EFR Chief Lee Soptich said.
Waltosz built a strong relationship between volunteer and career firefighters in the area.
“He was very well-respected by the fellow volunteers and by the career firefighters,” McDaniel said. “A lot of the career firefighters in the agency either had a direct or indirect relationship with him.”
Despite the serious role, McDaniel remembered Waltosz as a genial man dedicated to family and firefighting. The longtime volunteer firefighter also made up nicknames for colleagues as a friendly gesture.
“He had a great deal of influence on a lot of people,” McDaniel said. “He was just a great guy to be around.”
In December 2007, EFR leaders established the Volunteer Battalion Chief John Waltosz Inspiration Award as a testament to Waltosz’s service.
In a final honor to the longtime volunteer firefighter, EFR officials planned for firefighters to participate in Waltosz’s funeral procession and for a fire agency aid vehicle to carry his casket from the funeral service to Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent.
McDaniel, the inaugural recipient of the inspiration award, said Waltosz’s experience in the military, business and public sectors offered a breadth of experience to EFR. The experience came in handy as the fire service evolved and the region added residents.
“He’s the guy you would want someone new in the agency to be sat down with when they first came in,” McDaniel said. “That was one of John’s biggest strong points — the fact that he knew the fire service and he wanted to make sure that everyone that became a part of it would take on that same attitude and that respect for it.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.