SEASIDE — Former Hamlet Fire Chief Bill Boone died Saturday, Nov. 4, after more than three decades as fire chief. Boone, 66, died after a battle with cancer.
Hamlet Fire Chief Matt Verley remembered Boone “as a chief, teacher, mentor, and most notably, a friend.”“Countless people are alive today because of Bill’s efforts,” Verley said. “Even after three decades on the department, Bill was often the first person to the station when the pager sounded at 2 a.m.”
Boone spent most of his life here in the Hamlet community, running his general contracting business and serving on the Hamlet fire department for over 30 years. Boone was the husband of Oregon State Rep. Deborah Boone, who represents House District 32.
“It’s a huge loss for Hamlet community and the county,” Gearhart Fire Chief Bill Eddy said. “He did a lot for the community. I’ve known him for probably 15 to 20 years. He never got excited, took everything in stride, was proficient at what he did and if he had a question, he’d ask.”
Seaside Fire Chief Joey Daniels battled many blazes alongside Boone. “He was a great man, and he was a mentor to all of us, especially to all of us fire chiefs,” Daniels said. County Commissioner Lianne Thompson, who represents Hamlet, was a longtime friend. “Bill Boone was salt of the earth,” Thompson said. “Forty years with the Hamlet fire department, staunch supporter of Debby — he was a big man you could absolutely trust. He loved life and life loved him right back. He was just a fine person.”
Forty years of service
Boone grew up in Portland and joined the fledgling Hamlet Rural Fire Department in 1975, a year after he moved to the area.
Boone did not have prior firefighting experience, but joined the department because he was looking for adventure in his life as a young man. He stuck with it because he has “a personal conviction that everyone needs to give back to their community in some way or another,” Boone said in a 2015 interview with the Seaside Signal’s Katherine Lacaze. “I volunteered with them at that point, and then I just stayed with it.”
Boone was chairman of the Hamlet Rural Fire Protection District board in the 1980s, a position he relinquished when he was promoted to chief in 1991.
During his time as chief, Boone oversaw the construction and remodeling of buildings, the purchase of vehicles and equipment and the training and development of personnel, among services to the community.
“Under his guidance, the department saw tremendous growth in equipment, facilities, and personnel,” Verley said.
In 2008, he was among those recognized by the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners for his “significant contributions” to the county following windstorms during the Great Coastal Gale of 2007.
In 2014, Boone helped assemble a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant that allowed the purchase of the department’s first new fire apparatus, a custom built 3,000-gallon water tender.
In April 2015, Boone was recognized for his service during the monthly Hamlet community potluck dinner at Hamlet’s community center, with about 60 people in attendance.
As a thank-you, the community gave him an antique fire nozzle that was polished and mounted on a piece of wood containing a placard engraved with a thank-you to Boone for dedicating “40 years and counting” to the community.
‘Part of a team’
Verley said he met Boone about 14 years ago, when both were on construction jobs.
“I was working on a house and Bill was working on a neighboring house,” Verley said. “He walked over and he made a pitch for the fire department.”
The centerpiece of Hamlet Fire, the Necanicum fire station, was designed and built under Bill’s watch, Verley said.
Verley said Boone spent almost every Wednesday at the fire station; taking care of small maintenance items, paperwork, planning drills, and taking care of all the details necessary to keep the department running smoothly.
“I really enjoyed working with Bill,” Verley said. “He was fair and thorough. He really made everyone feel appreciated and he made you feel a part of the team.”
Dale Kamrath, who served as Seaside Fire Chief from 2007 to 2012, later moved to Hamlet, where he volunteered, called Boone’s efforts “flat-out amazing.” “In the 10 years I’ve known him, he’s always gone out of his way to help anybody, no matter if it was fire service or personal.”
Daniels praised Boone’s mutual aid efforts. “As chief of Hamlet, they’d always send people needed. He was running a business. It was a lot for him, but he’d never say no. He’d always be there.”
Celebration of life
After Boone was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and unable to actively serve, Verley was named chief and Boone assistant chief, a position he served until early this year.
When Boone first joined the department, there was a strong sense of community in the town.
Some of that was lost over the years, he said, but there has been a resurgence of community spirit, including the reinstatement of potluck dinners, which are held the second Saturday of each month, and holiday events. “There are a million different ways to do it, but this is just the way I’ve chosen,” he said in 2015.
Boone specifically said he wasn’t interested in a big celebration or a lot of fanfare, Verley said. “He wasn’t interested in glory — he was interested in helping his fellow human beings.”
Cleve Rooper, Cannon Beach Fire Chief from 1996 to 2011, remembered Boone as a builder, contractor, carpenter, boat operator, fly-fisherman and “a really good friend.”
“He was a very accomplished man, a very good friend,” Rooper said. “He was a great fire chief, community member, a great family man and contributed a lot to the community. And he died way too young. He will be sorely missed.”
A memorial dinner for Boone for Hamlet firefighters past and present will be held at an upcoming date.
Boone’s family is planning a celebration of life, Verley said.