Heart Attack Claims Washington Firefighter

Lt Al Basso while working with Longview Fire (left) and Firefighter/EMT Al Basso with Kalama Fire – Cowlitz County Fire District #5 (right). (Longview Fire Department, Facebook)

Basso had responded to two calls before he was stricken

Katie Fairbanks, The Daily News, Longview, Wash.


Alan Basso, a Kalama volunteer firefighter, port commissioner and retired Longview Fire Department lieutenant, died Friday of a heart attack shortly after handling two medical calls in Kalama.

His death occurred in the line of duty, officials said.

A longtime Kalama resident, Basso was a “true pinnacle of the community,” according to a press release from the fire departments.

“It is difficult to capture in words the true spirit of such a pure, sincere human being,” said Kalama Fire Chief Victor Leatzow, who knew Basso for decades.

Basso, 59, died of a heart attack about four hours after responding to two medical emergency calls as a Cowlitz Fire District 5 (Kalama Fire) volunteer firefighter and EMT, according to a press release.

Just before 2 p.m. Friday, Basso had a heart attack while driving in downtown Kalama and hit several parked cars, according to the press release. He was unconscious and not breathing when an off-duty Portland firefighter performed CPR. Kalama Fire arrived after about one minute and took Basso to PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center.

According to the press release, Basso’s death is considered a line of duty death under the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation guidelines.

Basso leaves behind his wife, Vicky Basso, and adult daughter Brittany Basso.

Basso grew up in Kalama and graduated from Kalama High School in 1980. He attended Lower Columbia College, Central Washington University and graduated from Washington State University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in History. He earned an Associate of Applied Science in Fire Protection from Portland Community College and EMT and paramedic certifications through the Washington State Department of Health.

Basso’s 36-year firefighting career included five years as a seasonal firefighter with the state Department of Natural Resources, one year with Washington State University, and two-and-a-half years with Kalama Fire as a career firefighter, 21 years as a Kalama Fire volunteer and captain, as well as more than 21 years as a firefighter and lieutenant for the Longview Fire Department. Basso retired from Longview Fire Department in January.

“Al had one of those unique qualities of being kind to all and being well liked, and that says a lot,” Longview Fire Chief Jim Kambeitz said in a statement.

Troy Buzalsky, who served as Basso’s battalion chief at Longview Fire, remembered Basso as a reliable colleague.

“He was always in good spirits, he made long days feel short, he never got excited, and his radio voice was commanding and memorable,” Buzalsky said. “You could always count on Al… no questions asked.”

Longview professional Firefighters Local 828 President Justin Noel, said Basso, who he worked with for over 20 years, will be sorely missed.

“Al was a great man with a heart of full of compassion for his community, who quietly went about his work never seeking recognition,” Noel said in a statement.

“The honesty, humor and integrity of Alan cannot be replaced within our community or organization,” Leatzow said in a statement. “Al and I had much in common… Go Cougs.”

Basso often signed off Port of Kalama commission meetings by cheering on his alma mater Washington State University, especially during football season, said Port Commission President Troy Stariha. Basso was “a genuine person and larger-than-life fixture” in the community with profound knowledge of Kalama and port history, Stariha said in a statement.

“Alan was a man of integrity. He represented the port and the community in such a way that it made people proud to live in Kalama and be part of that development,” he said. “He is going to be greatly missed as a fellow commissioner and as a friend.”

Basso was first appointed to the port commission in 2012 after long-time Commissioner Jim Lucas died. In 2013 Basso ran unopposed for his first full six-year term and was re-elected in 2019. He also served as a Kalama School District substitute history teacher.

“I can’t imagine commission meetings without Alan’s smile and dry wit,” Commissioner Randy Sweet said in a statement. “The community, port and schools have lost a great friend, fireman and teacher.”

Cowlitz County Fire District #5 Monday met with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), Kalama Professional Firefighters Local 4447, Longview Professional Firefighters Local 828 and the Cowlitz Chaplaincy for memorial remembrance planning.

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