BAKER CITY — Ryan Brecko always seemed happy.
Cameron Kiyokawa, a former Baker City Fire Department firefighter, remembers that part of his co-worker’s personality in particular.
“He’s always a genuine guy, always really happy,” Kiyokawa said. “He’d always say hi to everybody when he got to the station, always wished everybody a safe shift as he left.”
Kiyokawa, former training chief for the Baker City Fire Department who left the job in 2022, was among many firefighters who joined the community in mourning the death of Brecko, 27, a part-time paid volunteer firefighter, in a motorcycle crash Sunday afternoon, March 12, near Baker City.
At the start of the Baker City Council meeting March 14 at city hall where the flags were at half-staff to honor Brecko, Mayor Beverly Calder read a quote: “Whatever you choose to do, leave tracks.”
“This means don’t do it just for yourself. You will want to leave the world a little better for your having lived,” Calder said. “Baker City mourns the loss of one of our firefighters and we will adjourn this meeting to commemorate our loss of Ryan Brecko. Ryan Brecko will be missed by his fire department family and by us all. Ryan’s service with the Baker City Fire Department positively impacted our community and we wish our sincerest condolences to all who mourn this tragic loss.”
Baker City Manager Jonathan Cannon issued a statement March 13:
“Baker City mourns the loss of one of our paid part time firefighters this morning. Ryan Brecko will be missed by his colleagues and coworkers. We wish our sincerest condolences to all who mourn his death.”
Kiyokawa, who worked with Brecko for about a year, said his colleague was working to advance his career and become a full-time firefighter.
Prior to joining the Baker City Fire Department, Brecko had served with the Greater Bowen Valley and Baker Rural volunteer fire districts near Baker City.
Kiyokawa said Brecko was striving to earn his Firefighter 1F classification.
“He was really excited to get that,” Kiyokawa said. “He was working on his Firefighter 1 stuff for years, from what I remember, and dedicating himself, showing a lot of who he was as a person.”
Although Brecko was a member of the BCFD for a relatively short time, he made an impression on all of his co-workers, Kiyokawa said.
“He was always excited to be there, no matter what, and never wavered from his overall desire to serve and to enjoy the brotherhood, the family that we have there,” Kiyokowa said.
Kiyokawa said he and Brecko bonded over their shared love of motorcycles, riding together when they could.
Brecko was riding his 2020 Harley-Davidson motorcycle east on the Highway 203 overpass over the freeway at exit 298, about 5 miles north of Baker City, at around 1 p.m. March 12.
According to Oregon State Police, Robert Lee Drinkard, 77, of Moro, was exiting the freeway in a 2007 Ford F-350 pickup. Drinkard drove past the top of the offramp and into the highway, where his pickup struck Brecko’s motorcycle. Brecko was thrown from the motorcycle in the collision.
An Oregon State Police trooper was traveling in front of the motorcycle and immediately responded to the scene. The trooper called an ambulance and gave emergency medical care to Brecko, who was taken to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Baker City, where he later died.
Drinkard remained on scene and cooperated with investigators, according to OSP. The investigation is ongoing and will be submitted to the district attorney at the conclusion.
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