By MALLORY GRUBEN
VANCOUVER — The rumbling of 10 Harley Davidson engines echoed through Clark County Fire District 6 Station 63 on Aug. 10 as a fleet of riders dressed in leathers embroidered with union logos pulled into the building. All at once, the riders quieted their engines, dismounted, and came to attention. Two approached a line of firefighters in salute to receive a memorial ribbon for Joe Killian.
Killian, a union firefighter and paramedic, died Jan. 9, 2022, of occupational-related multiple myeloma. His cancer is considered a line-of-duty death, and he is one of seven fallen firefighters recognized this year in a special memorial ceremony in North Bend, Washington. The International Association of Fire Fighters District 7 Motorcycle Group escorted Killian’s memorial ribbon to the Washington State Fallen Firefighters Memorial for that ceremony.
Killian joined Clark County Fire District 6 in 1991 and served 26 years. He represented his coworkers as a shop steward for Fire Fighters Local 1805. (Local 1805 merged with Local 452 in 2021, about four years after Killian retired.)
Coworkers remember Killian as a skilled paramedic who was committed to the community that raised him. A graduate of Battle Ground High School, he studied pre-med at Portland State University and scored very high on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). He’d planned to go to medical school — until he discovered his passion for public service.
“He could have been a doctor, but he chose to stay because he fell in love with being a firefighter,” said Scott Taube, a retired member of Local 452 who worked with Killian for almost 25 years. “He would have done anything to help any citizen in this district.”
When he wasn’t working, Killian preferred to be outdoors camping, boating, or fishing with family. That included his union siblings, who he frequently invited on outings. Taube declined to share details of those trips, joking that not all of Kilian’s antics were fit to print. But Killian was well-loved for his big laugh and propensity to lighten the mood with a joke, Taube said.
Killian was 56 when he died, and just five years into retirement.
“Cancer is a terrible thing. It takes firefighters who dedicated their life to this job too soon,” Taube said.
Taube rides with the union motorcycle group. He helped gather the memorial ribbons on the “ride of honor” as the group visited Spokane, Ferndale, Seattle, and Pierce County. Clark County was the final stop. Almost three dozen firefighters and Killian’s family waited in the station, ready to honor his memory.
“When I pulled in here knowing I was going to receive the (ribbon), I got choked up,” Taube said. “The turnout here shows that Joe’s legacy lives on. … He may have passed, but he hasn’t died in our hearts.”