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Aerial Firefighter Tommy Archer Passes Away

Tom Archer, also known as Papa to his grandchildren, was a remarkable man who wore many hats throughout his life. He was a proud husband, father, grandfather, helicopter pilot, aerial firefighter, ag pilot, and lifelong farmer who left an indelible mark on all who knew him. Two familiar slogans, “You light ’em, we fight ’em” and “Where I go, weeds don’t grow,” were printed on his business cards, reflecting his can-do attitude and his ability to get things done.

Tom was born to Richard and Dorothy Archer in Oklahoma in 1952, with the family later settling the Archer Family homestead near Waitsburg, Washington. As a child, he worked on the farm, driving grain trucks and combines on some of the steepest hills in Columbia County. He attended Waitsburg High School. After graduating in 1970, he attended Big Bend Community College’s Aviation program and earned his commercial and private pilot’s license in 1972.

Tom’s aviation career spanned over 40 years, during which he logged countless hours of flight time. He was known as one of the few pilots contracted to fly in the most perilous conditions. As a helitack pilot, he transported wildland firefighters to remote locations, conducted initial attack water bucket drops on forest fires, and flew search and rescue missions in the mountains. He was also the owner and operator of Archer Aviation, where he flew ag aviation, aerial firefighting, and even dried acres of cherry trees after heavy rain.

A celebration of Tom’s life will take place on March 3rd at American 35 / 128 Main Street in Waitsburg, WA, at 4 pm. The family welcomes everyone who knew Tom to join in the celebration and share their favorite stories and memories of him. Online condolences can be shared at

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