Seattle fire deputy chief who went missing in national forest found dead after 12-day search

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Seattle fire deputy chief who went missing in national forest found dead after 12-day search

A high-ranking official at the Seattle Fire Department was found dead Sunday, concluding a nearly two-week-long search after he failed to return from a hunting trip in central Washington. 

Seattle Deputy Fire Chief Jay Schreckengost, 56, was found dead in the mountains near Cliffdell in Kittitas County on Sunday evening, just about a half-mile from the spot where his pickup truck was parked on Nov. 2, the day he went hunting. There was no preliminary evidence of suspicious activity or foul play, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office, which had led the massive search effort. 

In the 12 days since Schreckengost failed to return from scouting for elk, he had been the subject of a search involving 60 different agencies and organizations and thousands of hours from professional and trained volunteer searchers, the sheriff’s office said. The Seattle Fire Department said 160 of its members had traveled to the site in Washington, “determined to find our beloved member.” 

“We’re saddened to give news of Chief Schreckengost’s passing to his family and fellow firefighters, and we ask the public and press to respect their privacy as they grieve his loss,” Kittitas County Sheriff Clay Myers said in a statement. “We also want to thank everyone who participated in or supported this search. It was a tremendous outpouring of resources and effort that produced a vital result: a family knows what happened to their loved one and he can be brought home to them.”

Seattle Fire Deputy Chief Jay Schreckengost was an avid outdoorsman.
Seattle Fire Deputy Chief Jay Schreckengost.
Seattle Fire Departmen

Early search and rescue efforts, which included scouring sections of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and the use of a U.S. military Chinook helicopter, were impeded by snow as crews attempted to maneuver through several square miles of extremely rugged terrain.

Described as an avid outdoorsman, Schreckengost worked for the Seattle Fire Department for 36 years. 

“We are incredibly saddened by this news and are all grieving the loss of one of our own,” the Seattle Fire Department said in a statement. “Deputy Chief Schreckengost was a husband, father and friend to all, and our hearts are with his family right now who have been at the site every day searching alongside search and rescue, fire and law enforcement agencies.

Jay Schreckengost was found dead in the mountains near Cliffdell in Kittitas County on Sunday evening, just about a half mile from the spot where his pickup was parked on the day he went hunting on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.
Schreckengost was found dead in the mountains near Cliffdell in Kittitas County on Sunday evening, just about a half-mile from the spot where his pickup was parked on the day he went hunting on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.
Seattle Fire Departmen

“While the outcome is not what we would have hoped, we know that this will bring closure to Jay’s family, friends and colleagues. We will always remember you Jay, you are forever in our hearts.” 

Schreckengost’s family and the Seattle Fire Department were notified immediately when his body was found, the sheriff’s office said. The Kittitas County coroner also responded to the site and will complete the investigation to confirm a cause of death.

The Seattle Fire Department thanked the sheriff’s office, along with technical teams and search and rescue volunteers, who conducted an extensive search that led to the discovery, as well as businesses who provided food and lodging and set up critical radio and cellular networks. 

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