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Over 1,000 gather to remember fallen Wash. firefighter

Walla Walla Firefighter Ryan Pleasants was remembered for his integrity and compassion for the community

By Jeremy Burnham
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — More than 1,000 people — his friends, family and first responders from multiple agencies throughout Washington — gathered in Walla Walla Community College’s Dietrich Activity Center to offer a final farewell to firefighter Ryan Pleasants, who spent two decades protecting the community.

Following a line of grievers who spoke at the service was his wife, Racquel Pleasants.

“I love talking about him. Just look at him,” she said, while motioning to his portrait.

“I look forward to the day we can meet again, and there’s no pain for either of us,” she added tearfully.

For his family and colleagues, this was the second service in a week honoring Ryan Pleasants. For the community, the service on Saturday, Jan. 27, was the first and last opportunity to say goodbye.

As officials hurried to get ready, they solemnly greeted each other as friends and family arrived. Several groups formed and talked among themselves about 90 minutes before the program started.

There was laughter and chatter, as well as tears and mourning, and often intermixed, as everyone waited for a procession of 76 fire vehicles and 16 law enforcement vehicles to make its way from Walla Walla Fire Station 1 to the service at Dietrich Dome.

During the ceremony, one of the speakers sharing memories of Pleasants was his longtime friend and Washington State Penitentiary Superintendent Rob Jackson.

Jackson said he is a coin collector and had a series of coins made to honor some people he knows. He said he had long planned to give one of the coins to Pleasants.

“I missed that opportunity,” he said through tears. “There’s never a right time. If you wait, you might miss your opportunity.”

Jackson said Pleasants had a large influence on his life.

“Through him, I have become a better husband, father and man,” he said.

Pleasants spent 20 years with the Walla Walla Fire Department. He was a firefighter and paramedic for the first 19 years before being promoted to engineer last July. He died at the fire station on Sunday, Jan. 7, while working a 48-hour shift. According to a WWFD news release, he died of a significant cardiac event.

[PREVIOUSLY: Wash. firefighter dies while on duty]

Walla Walla Fire Chief John Knowles said Pleasants had been testing for his engineer promotion since 2019. He said the support and love he got from others competing against him for that position is a sign of the kind of person he was.

“Ryan was a man of the highest level of integrity,” Knowles said. “He had great compassion for the community he loved to serve.”

Pleasants served on the Fire Department’s B shift. His captain, Chris Worden, joked, “I assume that stands for ‘Best’ shift.”

Worden shared memories of their friendship, including their shared love of cooking.

“We cooked together a lot,” he said. “At my house, at his house and at the fire house. We fed the masses.”

He said they did a lot together.

“We raised kids together,” he said. “We worried our beautiful wives together ... We lived our lives together. We really, truly, wholly, lived our lives together.”

After the shared memories, Pleasants received fire service honors, which included an emergency dispatcher radioing him one last time. After calling for him several times, the dispatcher paused before saying, “There is no response.”

Many in the dome wept after the final dispatch.

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