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In Memoriam: Lieutenant Jay Garth Wheeler

On Wednesday, March 4, 2020, members of the Seattle Fire Department family were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of one of their own, Lieutenant Jay Garth Wheeler, after a long and difficult battle with an illness.

Jay faced his battle with great courage and without complaint, surrounded by his wife, children, parents and so many others who loved and cared deeply for him. Many from his fire department family spent time with Jay and his family during his last days.

Lt. Wheeler was committed to the Seattle community. He first served as an officer with the Seattle Police Department at the South Precinct in 1989 before joining the Seattle Fire Department in April, 1997. Throughout his fire service career, he served on Ladders 5, 7, 9 and 11 and Engines 36 and 38. On June 28, 2017, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and was working on Engine 29 in West Seattle. He also volunteered as a scuba diver for the Seattle Aquarium.

Here are two small examples of Jay’s exemplary service:

On August 19, 1998, while off-duty, then-Firefighter Wheeler was the first on the scene of a rollover motor vehicle accident. After ensuring the safety of bystanders, he stabilized the rolled over car, coordinating ropes to anchor points on the uphill side. He then initiated emergency medical care to the single patient trapped inside the care until the arrival of SFD units. In the words of his officer, he “acted in the finest of Seattle Fire Department tradition.”

In 2006, while serving in the Fire Alarm Center, Firefighter Wheeler received a letter of commendation for directing the delivery of a baby by the first-time father over the phone. His steady-handed questions and sure responses put both parents at ease and allowed them to focus on things that needed to be done. The baby was found wrapped in a towel as instructed when Engine 39 and the medics arrived a few minutes later. In their thank you letter, the parents acknowledged Jay’s efforts and “all the life-savers at Seattle’s 911. You helped bring a precious gift of life into our lives. We will be forever grateful.”

In a letter to all SFD members, Fire Chief Harold D. Scoggins commended Lt. Wheeler for his contributions to public service and as a long-time valued member of the Seattle Fire Department.

More information will be posted on Lt. Wheeler’s memorial service as it becomes available.