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Hundreds gather to honor fallen firefighter

By Rich Tarpening, Assignment Manager, Rich.Tarpening@kesq.com
Published On: Jul 12 2013 05:35:58 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 13 2013 12:10:18 AM CDT
Murrieta, Calif -

More than a thousand firefighters, friends, and family members of Christopher Lee Douglas honored his life of service at the Bridge Church in Murrieta.  A traditional life lost in the line-of-duty service was held to celebrate the life of the 41-year-old Temecula resident.  "You want to know who Chris Douglas was?" said his Battalion Chief Mark Williams.  "He was the guy that you wanted with you wherever you were at.  He was that guy." 

The man they affectionately called "Topher," spent his childhood in Colorado Springs until he enlisted in the United States Air Force, stationed in Vandenburg, California, where his specialty was in Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles Maintenance.  "True friend indeed," said Douglas' best friend Dale Price.  "There's no one I've come across in my life that was like that." 

Prior his CAL FIRE career, Chris was a paid-call firefighter at the Valley Center Fire Protection District in San Diego County from 1999 to 2004.  On February 23, 2004 Chris was hired as a Firefighter II/Paramedic for CAL FIRE in Riverside County and was assigned to La Quinta Fire Station #32 before transferring to the North La Quinta Fire Station #93 in February 2012.  On June 4, 2013, he was promoted to Fire Apparatus Engineer/Paramedic.  Upon completion of the Engineer Academy, Chris was assigned to Roy Wilson Fire Station #35 in Thousand Palms on July 23, 2012.  

People told stories about his passion for his job, but nothing outweighed the love for his 2-year-old son Samuel and his wife Amy, who's expecting their second child.  She wrote a final letter to her husband.  "For Topher, I will try to be strong and take the load off of him," said Chief Dorian Cooley who was reading the letter.  "He will never be forgotten and will be forever loved."  

"He was that guy that entertained that kept my daughter safe for 8 wonderful years and now continues to provide for her even in death," said Ron Aitkin, Douglas' father-in-law. "He is the one guy that everybody would want as a son, a father, or a friend.  He was the guy that we were so proud of and loved so much as the son we never had."

The service ended with one last dispatch call for Douglas, ending with "rest in peace." 

Douglas  was struck around 9:40 AM on July 5, by a Ford F-150 on the shoulder of eastbound Interstate 10 at at the Monterey Avenue on ramp, where his engine was stopped.  The engine stopped so firefighters could put on their gear, California Highway Patrol officer Stephanie Hamilton said.  Douglas and his crew were responding to a roll-over crash on I-10 near Washington Street, Hamilton said.  

Douglas, an eight-year Riverside County Fire Department veteran based at Fire Station 35 in Thousand Palms, was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, where he died about three hours later. 

The driver who struck Douglas, 60-year-old William Trimboli of Thousand Palms has cooperated with authorities. 

No criminal charges were filed as of late Thursday, according to court records, and Hamilton said it was unclear if he'd face charges.

Douglas, a firefighter for almost 10 years, is survived by his wife, Amy, who is pregnant, and 2-year-old son, Samuel.

Donations for the family can be made online at https://firefamilyfoundation.org or mailed to the Fire Family Foundation, 815 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90041.