The firefighting community is mourning the loss of Bill Boone, who served as Hamlet’s fire chief for many years.
Boone, 66, died Nov. 4 after a battle with cancer.
Hamlet Fire Chief Matt Verley remembered Boone as a chief, teacher, mentor and friend.
“Countless people are alive today because of Bill’s efforts,” Verley said. “Even after 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 in Hamlet, running his general contracting business and serving the Hamlet fire department for more than 30 years. He was the husband of 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.”
Looking for adventure
Boone grew up in Portland and joined the fledgling Hamlet Rural Fire Department in 1975, a year after he moved to the area.
He did not have prior firefighting experience, but joined the department because he was a young man looking for adventure in his life.
Boone stuck with it because he had “a personal conviction that everyone needs to give back to their community in some way or another,” he 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, firefighter training, and the purchase of vehicles and equipment, 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, with about 60 people in attendance.
He was given an antique fire nozzle, polished and mounted on a piece of wood containing a placard engraved with a thank you for dedicating “40 years and counting” to the community.
Verley met Boone about 14 years ago, when both were on construction jobs, he said.
“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.
Boone spent almost every Wednesday at the fire station, taking care of small maintenance items, paperwork, planning drills, and all the details necessary to keep the department running smoothly, Verley said.
“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.”
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.”
Dale Kamrath, Seaside fire chief from 2007 to 2012, later moved to Hamlet where he served as a firefighter volunteer. He 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, whether it was fire service or personal.”
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.