Man killed in Coeur d'Alene brush fire was a veteran - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Man killed in Coeur d'Alene brush fire was a veteran

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The scene of a fire that killed a homeless veteran Thursday. The scene of a fire that killed a homeless veteran Thursday.
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -

When first responders arrived on scene near the Potlatch Hill along Interstate 90 on October 1 to fight a brush fire, they did not expect to find a body too. The body they found belonged to 56-year-old Army veteran Robert Parkinson. The fire that killed Parkinson appears to have been accidental and is believed to have been some sort of campfire Parkinson was using to keep warm. 

"There aren't many programs that allow veterans a place to stay," says Freeman Buckhanan, a fellow homeless veteran. "So everyone is just kind of forced to live out in the woods."

Buckhanan has known Parkinson for nearly 10 years. The two met outside Fresh Start and they have a long history together working with homeless advocates to help other homeless vets. 

"I was in the process of trying to get warming shelters in Coeur d'Alene," says Patty McGruder, a homeless advocate. "We had Freeman and Parkinson help me dig holes in the snow...and we just put homeless in there to stay warm...and it was after that that we got warming shelters." 

Buckhanan says Parkinson was always the first one to step up and help out. They often crossed paths at local soup kitchens, but for the most part Parkinson kept to himself in the woods. Parkinson's living situation may have led to his death, but Buckhanan says there is one thing about his friend's death that brings him a little bit of comfort. 

"At least we know he won't have to suffer through another winter." 

Both Buckhanan and McGruder are in the process of establishing some sort of memorial for their friend. However, the memorial doesn't only symbolize Parkinson, but all homeless veterans. 

"He really liked to hang out at the library," says McGruder. "We want a bench there, and homeless people can sleep on the bench and the idea is that they will be safe from eviction from the city or the police." 

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