SEQUIM — The public will gather to mourn Clallam County Fire District 3 Capt. Charles “Chad” Cate on Saturday.
A longtime Sequim native, a first responder and a youth sports coach, Cate was found dead in his bunk in the early morning hours of Jan. 12.
He was 46.
A full fire service memorial is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Sequim High School, 601 N. Sequim Ave. The public and members of the fire service are welcome to attend.
Eighty fire vehicles and as many as 1,000 people are expected to attend.
Motorists in the Sequim and Carlsborg areas can expect periodic slowdowns as the memorial procession moves immediately before the service. (To join in the procession of fire apparatus before the memorial, participants must register in advance at tinyurl.com/ChadCateMemorial.)
On Jan. 13, a procession of first responders from across the North Olympic Peninsula and police vehicles escorted Cate to Thurston County, where an autopsy was performed, and then back through Sequim before delivering his body to Sequim Valley Funeral Home. Cate’s autopsy results were pending on Thursday.
“We’ve seen our industry come together at times like this and even lent a hand,” Fire District 3 Chief Ben Andrews said in a press release.
“But until now, we had no idea how truly valuable it is to be surrounded by our brothers and sisters.”
Cate was last seen with a firefighter crew at a fire alarm activation at a commercial building at about 2:25 a.m. Jan. 12. Following the call, the crew returned to the station and went to bed.
Later, after heading back out to the site of an earlier house fire in the Dungeness neighborhood, he texted a fellow captain and the duty chief at about 4 a.m. to say all was well at the scene, fire officials said.
At 7 a.m., members of his crew tried to wake him and discovered he had died.
Cate is survived by his wife, Renee, a 2-year-old son, Charles Thomas Cate III, and two adult children: Harrison, who is a Cadet 4th Class at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Ashleigh, who is serving in the U.S. Army as a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne.
Memories of Cate
Cate, a Sequim High School graduate, began serving as a volunteer firefighter in 1994, was hired by the fire district in 1996 as a firefighter/EMT, added “paramedic” to his qualifications in 2001. He was promoted to the rank of captain in 2021.
Scott Dickson, Cate’s longtime shift partner, said he and Cate met in the mid-1990s as volunteers, and they both applied for three open positions with the fire district. Cate was such a good candidate, Dickson recalled, that the fire district waived the age requirement (Cate wasn’t quite 21) to hire him. Dickson was hired a few years later.
Starting out on C shift together and then moving together to A shift, Dickson said he and Cate were together for just about every shift for the past 22 years.
“We had a unique way of communicating,” Dickson said. “It wouldn’t matter the nature of the calls.”
Firefighter Chris Corbin, who is also president of the IAFF Local District 7 firefighters union, joined the district in August 2010, but he met Cate at his previous position with Olympic Ambulance.
“Since the day I got hired, it was a big brother relationship,” Corbin said. “[Chad was] one of those guys I always leaned on, that I’ve always been able to talk to.”
Corbin said Cate was unique in that he never sought out conflict or started a rift with anyone.
“He was a very relaxed, mellow, level-headed guy; he never presented anything different,” Corbin said of Cate.
“I never once had an argument with Chad; that goes for a lot of guys on our shift.”
Derrell Sharp, Port Angeles Fire Department’s fire chief, a 30-year veteran of the fire service in Sequim, worked with Cate for several years before joining PA’s fire district in 2021.
“Charlie (Chad) was one of those guys you loved to work with; he was kind, considerate and light-hearted,” Sharp said. “He was an exceptionally caring and compassionate paramedic. He was a solid firefighter; one you knew would come to your rescue if you ever found yourself in peril.”
Clallam County Fire District 2 Chief Jake Patterson said he graduated from Sequim High School with Cate’s older sister and knew him growing up and while in the fire service.
“He was always jovial and friendly,” Patterson said. “He always had a positive attitude, was hard working, and really loved the community.”
Dickson said Cate would always look out for his fellow district colleagues, through a conversation or making sure everyone was well-fed.
“He was genuinely concerned about people; he wanted this whole department together,” Dickson said.
Supporter of sports
Cate worked as a high school wrestling coach at SHS, first as an assistant and then, midway through the 2019-2020 season, as head coach of the Wolves.
Sequim School District officials said high school staff and wrestling team members were notified on Jan. 12 of Cate’s death.
“Support is in place at the high school for students and staff,” district officials said in a message sent home to parents and guardians later that day.
“We appreciate his selfless service to our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chad’s family, friends, and co-workers during this difficult time,” they said.
Steve Chinn, Fire District 3 commissioner and former SHS wrestling head coach, will help oversee the team.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group. Reach him at email@example.com.