Wash. volunteer firefighter dies due to COVID-19
West Benton Firefighter Luis Lopez, 42, volunteered for more than 12 years and was well-known in the community
Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)
PROSSER, Wash. — Luis Lopez could intimidate people with his size, but it didn't take people long to learn he was a kind and thoughtful man.
"Luis embraced the hard work that came with being a firefighter," said West Benton Fire Rescue Chief Seth Johnson. "He always had a smile on his face, until it was time to go to work, then he was all business."
Now friends, families and two Mid-Columbia communities are remembering the longtime volunteer firefighter who died on Saturday, March 27, after battling COVID-19.
Lopez, 42, spent more than 12 years volunteering for the regional fire authority that serves the area around Prosser.
In that time, he responded to 1,613 emergencies and logged more than 720 hours of training. Johnson said those statistics are staggering.
He also enjoyed fighting wildland fires, and was frequently sent to battle blazes across the region and Washington state.
When he wasn't responding to fires, he was frequently seen helping with station tours, public education events, parades and he loved to dress as Santa Claus during the annual holiday tour.
"He was a very committed volunteer, spending nights away from his family to protect the community," Johnson said.
He also spent many years as a bus driver and a custodian at the Prosser School District, and was well known in the community, Johnson said.
After taking a job with the city of Pasco, he moved to the Connell-area and started volunteering with Franklin County Fire District 1, where he served the area around Mesa, Eltopia and Connell.
He was recently married and has three kids and two step-children.
A memorial service is planned Tuesday, but due to COVID restrictions only invited guests may attend.
However, the public is invited to honor his memory during a 10:45 a.m. procession Tuesday, April 6, from the Prosser Funeral Home to Sacred Heart Church. The procession will travel south on Seventh Street, turning east on Meade Avenue until it reaches Highland Drive.
Those who wish to pay their respects along the route are encouraged to do so, while using face masks and practicing social distancing measures, the fire authority said.
(c)2021 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)