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Former CKFR chief Steve Bigelow dies unexpectedly
Former Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Steve Bigelow passed away Tuesday.
His death was unexpected and occurred following a surgery. He is survived by his wife and three children. He was 68.
During a CK Fire & Rescue board meeting Tuesday, commissioners paused for a moment of silence in honor of Bigelow, who passed away earlier in the day.
"It's a shock to hear about this," said CKFR Commissioner Ralph Rogers. "Steve was my first fire chief when I worked in this district. Then I became a commissioner and we kind of reversed roles."
Bigelow started working in District 15 in 1980, when the Meadowdale station was an all-volunteer department, with the exception of one paid employee. When District 15 and District 1 merged in 1999, he remained as the Fire Chief. He retired in 2000. Bigelow's son, Chris, works as a fireman/EMT for the department.
"Chief Bigelow impacted the local community in many ways, from serving as President of the Kitsap County Fire Chiefs Association, to coaching local youth soccer teams, and being an active member of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce. One project that was held in particular high regard to Chief Bigelow was his role in helping to form the Kitsap Readiness Response Center," stated a CKFR press release.
His ability to work with a variety of people and groups is what many will remember about him, said CKFR Deputy Fire Chief Jay Lovato.
"He was very involved with the community and very well liked," said Lovato. "He worked cooperatively with all the other fire chiefs in the county."
Lovato remembered being impressed with Bigelow right away. Prior to being hired in 1991, Lovato worked in Los Angeles and found out about the job in Washington. He applied, tested and was placed onto the hiring roster. After reviewing Lovato's skills, Bigelow traveled all the way to Los Angeles with another employee to conduct an interview.
"I thought that was impressive, and I was amazed that he would travel down to visit me and my wife and interview us in our own home," he said.
Throughout his career, Lovato said Bigelow was there for him. The former fire chief saw Lovato through two promotions.
"He was a friend and mentor to me as I continued on my fire service path," he said.
Lovato remarked he will always remember Bigelow's passion and dedication to the job. The former fire chief frequently spent time assisting with emergency situations through Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management. Additionally, the focus for Bigelow was always on keeping residents safe, and ensuring that the fire department employees were diligent in their work habits.
Even with the constant flurry of activity in the department, Lovato said that Bigelow's friendly demeanor never wavered. He always had a smile and a chuckle for everyone. "He was just a very happy person. He was always positive," said Lovato. "He was a tireless worker. He worked very hard. It was very inspirational to see him there early or there late."
During the commission meeting, CK Fire & Rescue board chair Dave Fergus said Bigelow was well respected in the district and would be missed.
"He was a mentor to me in my career," said Fergus. "This is a loss for us, and we are thinking of his family."
Memorial service information is still pending.