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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Coos Bay firefighter grew up in Baker City

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Coos Bay firefighter grew up in Baker City

By CHRIS COLLINS

Of the Baker City Herald

Word spread through the community slowly Tuesday morning that one of the three men who died in Monday's fire at Coos Bay was a former longtime Baker City resident who had devoted many years to this community's fire service.

Lt. Randall "Randy" Carpenter, 45, a 15-year veteran of the Coos Bay Fire Department, was one of two men who died inside FarWest Truck & Auto Supply when the building's roof collapsed. Jeffery Edward Common, 30, also died inside the building. Robert Charles Hanners, 33, died at the Bay Area Hospital of injuries sustained in the fire.

Baker City firefighters and friends of the family are awaiting word of funeral arrangements. Meanwhile, a fund for the families has been established through US Bank, according to Fire Chief Tim Frost. Carpenter leaves two daughters, Sara and Stephanie.

The cause of the fire is expected to be announced today, Frost said. Flags at all fire stations and state buildings flew at half-staff Tuesday by order of the governor in memory of the fallen firefighters.

"It's still a shock for everybody," said Dan Curtis, a 25-year Baker City firefighter. "He loved the fire service."

Carpenter was the son of Wayne and Dru Carpenter of Baker City. He grew up around the fire department where his father was a volunteer for 46 years. Wayne Carpenter was named a lifetime honorary member of the department when he retired in 1993.

Lifelong friend, Kevin Griffith, a longtime volunteer firefighter, remembers Randy as "a typical Eastern Oregon kid." The two attended school together from their days at Brooklyn Elementary, through junior high and high school, where they both graduated in 1975, he said. He returned to the area regularly to hunt and visit his family and friends.

Randy's official role with the Baker City Fire Department began when he volunteered in 1980 and ended in 1987 when he left the community to take the job with the Coos Bay Fire Department, according to Bill Smith, who retired as fire chief in 2000. During that time, Carpenter also filled in part time for other firefighters. He was named the department's Firefighter of the Year in 1983.

Carpenter was hired by the department in the mid-1980s while one of the paid firefighters was on a year's leave of absence and then was employed with the city's public works department. He also served as the first fire chief of the Baker Rural Fire District, Smith said.

"He was a great guy," Smith said. "He was always willing to do anything that needed to be done. Randy was a great volunteer."

At one point, Wayne, Randy, and his younger brother, Jeff Carpenter, all volunteered for the fire department, Smith said.

He recalled his days as a part-time cook at Wayne's Place on 10th Street, the former A & W, where Smith joined the Carpenters in their family business.

"When the horn would blow there would be a mass migration," Smith said, as he, Randy, Jeff and Wayne all would jump in their cars and head for the fire.

"The fire service lost a dedicated employee and member," he said. "People who start out as a volunteer and become a paid person — you gotta know they're dedicated."

Don Everson, former longtime fire chief who retired in 1995, also remembered Randy's love for the fire service.

"Randy was an excellent firefighter and I would have loved to have kept him here in Baker," he said.

But in 1987 none of the paid firefighters was planning to retire anytime soon and the fire department's staff was being reduced rather than expanded because of budget cuts.

It was Carpenter's determination to be a firefighter that took him to Coos Bay.

"It's just a tremendous loss for the families down there and for the fire service in general," Everson said.

"Randy — he's one of ours," he said. "He belonged to us. That's the way we felt."

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