Firefighter followed in dad's footsteps, was giving, loved baseball

CASTLE ROCK, Wash. - Jan Johnson was worried her stepson, Dan - a firefighter in Arizona - might have been among those killed in the wildfire that took the lives of 19 Hotshots on Sunday.

But as she searched the Internet, she instead came across the name of her 22-year-old grandson, Wade Parker. He had been the one to die in the fire.

The last time Johnson visited her grandson and his family was five years ago. She didn't know that Parker had signed up this year to join the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew.

She said her grandson had always admired his firefighting dad, Dan, who has been a firefighter for 20 years. He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.

"Their son of 22 years is gone," she said. "And that's what Michelle (Wade's mother) told me. She said, 'Wade's gone. ...' And your heart just breaks for them. And that's partly why my heart breaks - is because they're hurting so badly."

Johnson said her grandson'' character and passion for firefighting made him a natural to be on that elite team.

Parker's father, in an interview with a television station in Phoenix, said he's most proud that his son always thought of other people before he thought of himself.

"It's what he lived for," Dan Parker said. "He couldn't wait every time to go."

Wade Parker had a passion for baseball, and his grandmother said he was a giving person. As a boy he gave up his birthday money for a friend who needed shoes, she said.

Johnson said the family is clinging to their Christian faith, just as Parker did, to see them through this very tough time.

"Peace comes when you think you're not going to have it," she said. "And you get that peace, and you know it's only from the Lord because you can cry your eyes out and people can be kind to you, but if you don't have the Lord, you don't have that strength."

She also said Parker was engaged to be married in October. The strength from his fiance is also helping the family.

But above all Johnson said she is proud of her grandson.

"I'm so thrilled that he was doing something that he absolutely loved," she said.