Passing of Chris Parsons, esteemed former president of Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters

June 16 • 2023

Chris Parsons, a former president of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters (MPFF) who tirelessly advocated for fire fighters and working people, has died. He was 48. 

“The passing of Brother Parsons is a tremendous loss for the 5th District and the entire IAFF. Not only was he the kind of fire fighter who would always have your back on the fire ground, but he was the kind of leader who would never stop until the collective voice of our members was heard,” said General President Edward Kelly. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Saint Paul Local 21, the entire 5th District, and his family during this difficult time.” 

Those sentiments were echoed across the International.

“Chris Parsons was a strong leader and a good man,” said General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma. “His death is a loss for Minnesota fire fighters and all IAFF members. His legacy is one of standing up and always fighting to make our profession better and our members safer. May perpetual light shine on Brother Parsons, his family, and his fellow Local 21 fire fighters.”

“Chris was a constant fixture at the state capitol, building relationships on both sides of the aisle so he could be a better advocate for his fellow IAFF members. He was a great union leader who didn’t just fight for Minnesota members, he fought for all of us,” said 5th District Vice President Thomas Thornberg. “On behalf of the entire 5th District, I extend our condolences to his family, the members of Local 21, and all who knew him.” 

Parsons joined the Saint Paul Fire Department on Oct. 16, 2000. He soon became a proud member of Saint Paul Local 21, quickly establishing himself as a fierce advocate for fire fighters statewide.  

It was not long before he became an officer on the Local 21 Executive Board and was later elected to state-level positions, including MPFF central district vice president and president (2014-2021).

In his capacity as a union officer, he was instrumental in the passage of 2019 state legislation that banned PFAS in firefighting foam as well as mattresses and other household products, provided lifesaving financial assistance to fire fighters injured on the job, and helped pass presumption laws benefiting fire fighters diagnosed with PTSD and COVID-19.  

“His strong ability to lead really showed as he advocated for Minnesota fire fighters at the state capitol. Thanks to his leadership, Minnesota was one of the first states to institute a ban on PFAS and many other advances,” said MPFF President Scott Vadnais. “He will be missed, but his legacy will live on forever.” 

“It was hard not to notice Chris. At 6’8, he towered over all of us on the fire ground and could easily be spotted on the grounds of the state capitol. He was a remarkable labor leader, excellent fire fighter, and a true friend to so many,” said Local 21 President Michael Smith. “Minnesota has lost one of its best. We will miss him.” 

Parsons completed his shift at the fire station June 9 before running a 5K on June 10. He was on his way back to his car when he collapsed. Bystanders tried to help until Minneapolis Local 82 President Mark Lakosky and his Engine 18 crew arrived on scene.  

Local 82 members were able to regain Parsons’ pulse, but he went into cardiac arrest several times over the next couple of days. He remained on life support in the ICU until June 15. 

His organs were donated to individuals waiting for transplants. “Even in death, Chris is saving lives,” said Kelly. “That is just one of many ways his legacy will live on.” 

Parsons is survived by his daughters Kaya and Annika, extended family, and friends. The IAFF will post service information as it becomes available.