Douglas Wayne Houston, 73 years old, passed away with grace and courage on Dec. 31, 2021, at his home in Salmon, Idaho, after a brave battle with chronic illness.
Doug was born in Omak, Washington, to Benjamin Wayne and Ella Mae (Brooks) Houston. He attended Omak High School where he was a varsity all-star in baseball, basketball and football. He attended Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington, where he continued his athletic career and obtained a degree in recreation and park administration. He spent two years of military service with the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged after active service in Korea. Upon returning home, he helped care for his brother (Craig Houston) who was shot during a Vietnam War skirmish, rendering him a paraplegic.
The ultimate measure of “a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy (MLK).” Doug was born of fire with the qualities of energy, assertiveness and passion. His strength and resilience were steeled by the heat of the ultimate battle with nature’s wildland fires!
He began his affair with fire as a teenager. He aspired to become a smokejumper and began his career as a wildland firefighter. He worked summers with Washington state and federal fire crews. After college, he applied to become a smokejumper. In 1973, he was accepted and became a rookie smokejumper in Redmond, Oregon, at the Smokejumper Base (RAC). He jumped out of RAC for 17 years (1973-1990). In 1990 he was offered the position of base manager at NCSB (North Cascades Smokejumper Base), which he accepted, to become the third base manager at the now famous, original smokejumper base in the United States. He moved to Winthrop, Washington, in 1990. He served as the active base manager at NCSB from 1990-2001.
His colleagues and protégés characterized him as a man with “grit and courage,” a professional, educator, mentor, a calm and steady force in a climate of high intensity. He was able to maintain a sense of citizenship and community in Winthrop as a coach for the high school cross country team. Among his outstanding achievements was his support and promotion of diversity programs in smoke jumping circles. Doug loved the work and the brotherhood he found among his colleagues. After 29 years of jumping out of airplanes to fight fires, he retired with 324 career jumps. As of 2009 he was ranked No. 4 for all-time career jumps.
Following his retirement from active smoke jumping duty in 2001, he served as the president of the National Smokejumper Association from 2005-2009. During his tenure as president he demonstrated dedication, vision and emotional intelligence. His passion for flying and working with firefighters never ended and he continued with the U.S. Forest Service in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. Doug served firefighters and the public in his capacity as an Air Tactical Group Supervisor (ATGS). His primary function was directing fixed and rotor wing retardant aircraft in direct support of ground fire suppression operations. Doug made and maintained many lifelong friends through his time in the forest firefighting world. He was affable, positive, loyal, dependable and steadfast.
He was senior instructor Mission Centered Solutions teaching firefighters all over the world to make critical decisions in increasingly complex environments with resilience and adaptiveness in mission-driven operating cultures. In his later years, he changed course from the azure of the skies to the blues of the river when he started the Flyboy Angler Business selling fly fishing flies to businesses all over the Northwest and Canada. He truly enjoyed developing the company and treasured the relationships with all of his customers. He was particularly fond of his ability to “product test” at every convenience.
Throughout his life, Doug was an avid outdoorsman and loved being in nature. You could often find him on snowy slopes in the winter, casting an artful line in the rivers and lakes, stalking wild game in the fall, running, biking, and heckling friends while playing pickleball. He even tried his hand as a horseman. Doug was a good father, loving husband, and a true friend. He will be missed greatly.
This loving soul is survived by his spouse, Suzanne Nebeker; his two sons and their spouses, Justin/Becky Houston and Cody/Jenny Houston, granddaughters Sophie Houston and Waylen Houston; his sisters Loretta Houston and Linda and Jim Gavin. He is predeceased by his parents Ella and Wayne Houston, brother, Craig Houston.
Memorial services will be held Saturday, June 11, 2022, from 1-6 p.m. in Winthrop, Washington, at 19 Bear Creek Golf Course Road.
For detailed memorial service information and RSVP you may contact Kelly Estherbrook at firstname.lastname@example.org or Suzanne Nebeker at email@example.com.