Thomas Needham retires after 45 years with EFR

July 2, 2013

By Michele Mihalovich

Capt. Thomas Needham looks at the engraved antique fire extinguisher, a gift from Eastside Fire & Rescue for his 45 years of service.  By Michele Mihalovich

Capt. Thomas Needham looks at the engraved antique fire extinguisher, a gift from Eastside Fire & Rescue for his 45 years of service. By Michele Mihalovich

Capt. Thomas Needham looked at the engraved antique fire extinguisher, a gift from Eastside Fire & Rescue for his 45 years of service, and said, “You know, I think I might have put out a fire or two with one of these.”

Needham, 61, retired in May and a retirement recognition ceremony was held at EFR’s regular board meeting June 13.

Chief Lee Soptich told the crowded room about how Needham went up to the Issaquah fire chief when he was just 15 and a half years old and said he wanted to be a firefighter. The chief told him to come back when he was 16.

A couple of days after celebrating his birthday, Needham went back to the fire chief, reiterating his desire to become a firefighter.

Needham joked with the crowd that he had survived the extensive background check, which included the chief telling a group of Issaquah Fire Department personnel, “You all know his parents and he wants to be a firefighter.”

Needham said, “Well, I guess there were no black balls and the rest is history.”

He volunteered with the Issaquah Fire Department in December 1967, served as a dispatcher for Belle-vue, was hired as a career firefighter in North Bend in 1981 and finished out the rest of his career in Carnation, where he lives today.

Needham told the gathered crowd about fighting his first “real” fire, at Paradise Tavern in Preston, but the longest employed worker with EFR saw a lot of action in those 45 years.

“Tom has seen it all,” Soptich said. “He’s watched the area grow and how the services reacted to that growth. He made the system even better and sacrificed a ton.

“His knowledge and professionalism has helped the communities served by Eastside Fire & Rescue,” he added. “The agency will miss his involvement, especially in the field of communication and emergency disaster planning.”

Needham said he was retiring because of medical issues and plans to spend a lot of time camping with his family, especially his grandson.

To the firefighters he is leaving behind, he said, “I have had a wonderful career over the years and it has been a privilege to work with so many talented and caring individuals. Keep up the excellent work, take care of one another and continue to deliver great service to the citizens we serve.”

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