Flash Parlini started volunteering at Mount Rainier National Park in 1991.
Over the years, he logged more than 16,000 volunteer hours with Mount Rainier all while maintaining a full time and successful career as a flight test engineer with the Boeing Company. Translation? Flash Parlini volunteered within the park on almost every free weekend that he had, all throughout the year.
Flash was, first and foremost, a backcountry ranger. He loved getting out into the wilderness and protecting its values. He was always friendly with visitors, but seemed most comfortable out on the trails addressing whatever hazards or damage to trails and facilities that he came across throughout the day.
As an expert in radio communications, Flash assisted the park with numerous radio related questions and issues over the years. He assisted with Law Enforcement issues, Search and Rescue operations, maintaining backcountry structures and restoring natural resource projects. During RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day), Flash was always the guy who used his ham radio skills throughout the day. His steady voice was sorely missed during the 2017 ride on Thursday, July 27.
THOROUGH REPORTS: When submitting reports from the field, Flash was respectfully brief and to the point. During incidents, he was detailed and analytical, clear and thorough. When Flash reported problems, he always detailed ways to fix them. Many of the suggestions he made ended up being implemented over the years.
VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR: In 2003, Flash was honored for his commitment to Mount Rainier National Park when he received Mount Rainier’s Volunteer of the Year award (pdf).
The award noted:
“Whenever help is needed, Flash is there to get the job done. He is one of the most dependable, resourceful, thoughtful folks working here. His efforts have truly helped the National Park Service in its mission to preserve and protect this incomparable place, and to keep visitors safe while enjoying its beauty. Mount Rainier National Park is a better place for all of us because of the contributions Flash Parlini has made.”
HELP DURING THE FLOODS: During the historic flooding event that hit the park in November of 2006, Flash’s knowledge of the Carbon River area was instrumental in assisting park officials with surveying the extensive flood damage that all but destroyed the area’s infrastructure. This information and knowledge was critical in assisting park management in planning and implementing recovery efforts.
GEORGE B. HARTZOG AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER SERVICE: In February 2017, Flash’s fellow rangers nominated him for the highest honor the National Park Service offers to a volunteer.
The nomination reports that:
“Due to his length of service, it is difficult to capture all that Flash has accomplished in a few sentences. Flash supports the NPS mission through is longevity and dedication, and he gives a tremendous amount of his free time to Mount Rainier. In a sense he has become the true ‘steward’ of the Tolmie Fire Lookout. In this day and age of smaller park staff and increasing visitation numbers, his services, time and efforts have proven to be invaluable to the success of Mount Rainier National Park.”
From Ranger Geoff Walker:
It is truly hard to comprehend the impact that Flash had over his 26 years of service to Mount Rainier. Think of all the visitors that he has assisted, from providing simple information to performing emergency medical aid. Think of the scores of rangers over the years who have benefited from Flash’s knowledge, learned what true resource stewardship means, and become better rangers because of his influence. Flash’s quiet yet intense dedication to Mount Rainier will be sorely missed.”
Throughout all that he did and accomplished for the park, Flash remained extremely humble. You would never know when first meeting him how much he had accomplished over the years. He shied away from special recognition both for his service to Mount Rainier National Park and in his career with Boeing. Flash Parlini was unassuming at best.
Even while facing his serious illness, Flash visited the Carbon River Ranger Station when he felt up to it…and everyone who knew him always enjoy seeing him when he visited. From ranger Jim Hull:
“Flash was always there…he always knew when I had a day or two off so he could cover the ranger station while I was away. He always kept his EMT skills up to date which was a great help to have up here in our corner of the park.
This District will sorely miss the man!! That’s for certain.”
Flash cared deeply about…
- Volunteering at Mount Rainier National Park
- Improving the park’s communication and safety devices
- Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout
- The establishment of a campground for volunteers at Carbon River
- Ongoing training for park volunteers
As a result, gifts given to Mount Rainier National Park through Washington’s National Park Fund will enable the park to 1) construct a new campground in the Carbon River area, and 2) purchase much needed communications devices and personal locator beacons. 100% of your gift is tax-deductible. The Fund’s tax ID# is 01-0869799.
Please contact the Fund’s Executive Director, Laurie Ward
206-623-2063 / email@example.com
QUIPS FROM FLASH
Volunteers at Mount Rainier National Park were always encouraged to submit reports of their experiences while volunteering. During lighter times, Flash’s subtle wit was sprinkled throughout the reports he submitted; if you weren’t tuned in, you’d risk missing the hidden gems within.
“The broken rail in camp is from the snow load. It was a mild winter, the bear boxes were lucky.”
“Spent last weekend in sunny Yuma, yet another irrigated desert.”
“The place is still mouse-infested, but better than last year, even without any attempts to trap them. Clean living must pay off.”
“Driving down to Carbon, I noted that there were vehicles in every single turnout, official or not. Gee, it’s good to see people back having fun.”
“Huh. The marmots are getting fat; summer’s over!”
When submitting his volunteer hours?
“July was 69 hours. August will be 52 unless something happens tonight.”
And one of the park’s favorites:
“True to form, it rained on Fourth of July weekend. Good early season flowers along the Glacier trail. On Monday I walked up to Mowich and back in glorious sunshine.”
A Compliment From Park Visitors
This was left by a few park visitors in a comment box:
“My brother and I were hiking Sunday on the road to Mowich Lake and we met one of your volunteers who was so kind and helpful. The name on his pack was Flash Parlini. (Could somebody really be named Flash)? How lucky we are that there are people like him who choose to volunteer their time to help not only our park, but regular people like us too! You have a jewel in him.”
Love for Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout
Flash focused his volunteer service in the more isolated northwest region of the park – the Carbon River/Mowich Lake area. On almost every summer weekend, Flash stayed overnight at the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout as a caretaker and an NPS contact for the hiking public. Since he volunteered for so long in that specific area of the park, he became a default subject matter expert on both park operations and the cultural and natural resources of Carbon River, Mowich Lake and Tolmie Lookout.
Park Ranger Jim Hull, who worked closely with Flash for years, recently stated,
“When folks would ask me questions that I didn’t have answers to, I’d say ‘Huh…let me ask Flash.’ If we didn’t know how to fix something, Flash did. He knew how things worked. If he didn’t, he could figure it out. To all of us, he was Mr. Tolmie; he knew how all the workings of the lookout worked including the Mark IV fire finder. Amazing guy, that Flash Parlini.”
As a historic park structure, Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout is perched on a ridge-line three and half miles from the nearest dirt road. Getting there is no easy task. Flash coordinated projects with protection rangers, backcountry carpenters, trail crew, and resource staff and served as a spotter/lookout for helicopter operations. Flash logged thousands of hiking miles in the park which required maintaining a high level of physical fitness.