With a heavy heart, South King Fire & Rescue announced that Retired Chief Bud Thorson passed away on Jan. 13, 2023 at the young age of 93 years.

“Chief Thorson was a true visionary and left behind a legacy,” the department said.

Here’s more from SKF&R:

Chief Bud Thorson was born in Centerville, South Dakota, on July 16th, 1929, and moved to Seattle when he was seven. He served in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft mechanic stationed in Germany, participating in the Berlin Airlift. Before joining the fire service, Bud drove a truck in Seattle delivering to stores and restaurants and was a meat cutter for his brother’s grocery store in Angle Lake.

Bud married the love of his life, Joan A. Koppenheffer, in 1954, and in 1955, he joined our fire department as a volunteer. Working his way up, he was promoted to volunteer Chief in 1962 and became a career Fire Chief in 1966. During his tenure, Chief Thorson was instrumental in merging Fire District 39 with 22 in 1967, District 32 in 1972, and District 30 in 1980. Yes, he is why we exist today as South King Fire & Rescue.
During Chief Thorson’s time here, he served in the community’s top leadership roles, including President of Volunteer Firefighter Associations, President of the Chamber of Commerce, President of Rotary, President of the King County Chiefs Association, President of the Washington State Chiefs Association, and the Chairman of Washington State Training Officers. During his tenure, Chief Thorson played a vital role in the design, development, funding, and construction of the State Fire Training Center in North Bend.

Other noteworthy accomplishments include implementing the South King County Medic One program, starting with four medic units covering what is now Zone 1. As a part of this program, he worked with King County EMS to allow firefighters to be trained as defibrillator technicians, which was the first in Washington State. Additionally, Chief Thorson partnered with the U.S. Secret Service as the emergency services coordinator for a U.S. Presidential visit to the area. He retired from Federal Way Fire Department in January 1990.

In his personal life, he had four children, eight Grandkids and six Great Grandkids. Bud enjoyed coaching baseball for his kid’s teams in the early years.

After retirement, Chief Thorson enjoyed salmon fishing out of Westport and camping with his wife. He also took up woodworking and was talented at making pen and pencil sets, cutting boards, bowls, desks, tables, chairs, and many other items out of exotic woods. At one point, he renovated all the wood surfaces at Charlie’s, his favorite restaurant in Enumclaw. In addition, Bud enjoyed art and began doing his paintings. Recently he took up resin-wood projects that were also works of art.

Service will be Saturday, Feb. 4

Services will be held at the Federal Way Community Center (map below) on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023 at 1 p.m.

You may join friends and family to celebrate his life and legacy and enjoy light refreshments to share stories and memories of Retired Chief Bud Thorson.