Mar 23, 2010 7:34 PM
An early morning fire on Saturday ended tragically, when firefighters found Donald Barnett's body inside his home at the Northwood Commons in Chico. A neighbor reported the blaze, and fire crews were able to stop the spread to the adjoining duplex.
Barnett was a retired pilot for Cal-Fire from 2000 to 2005. He worked at the Tehama-Glenn unit at the Vina Helitack Base. Friends and colleagues say it was a pleasure working with him. "We complimented each other. We took good care of the aircraft together, he was a good person to make sure everything worked right and the aircraft was running right," Cal-Fire Forestry Pilot Jim Costa said.
Co-workers say Barnett's previous work as a pilot for Aris helicopters only added to his talent. He served two tours in the U.S. Army in Vietnam before joining with Cal-Fire. "Don was almost, could be considered a father figure for some of the crews that were here. He brought a lot of experience to the base and his skill of pilotry was exceptional," Captain Randy Fregoso explained.
Besides his exceptional skill, Barnett was also considered a friend. "Don had a really interesting sense of humor, it was a really dry sense of humor and Don was a lot of fun to be around," Costa said. "The camaraderie and the hard work, it's part of a team effort, everybody is here to accomplish a goal, he'll be missed," Cal-Fire Battalion Chief Randy Rapp stated.
Barnett leaves behind his mother of Mendocino County and his sister of Sacramento. A family service for Donald Barnett is still being arranged.
The cause of Saturday's fire is still being investigated.