Former Garden Grove Fire Chief Tom Schultz died Sunday while battling pancreatic and liver cancer, the department announced.
"Words alone cannot describe the immeasurable heartache felt by his family and friends, including his Garden Grove, Fullerton, and Brea fire families,'' Acting Fire Chief T.J. McGovern said.
"Anyone who is in the Orange County Fire Service has more than likely been influenced by Chief Schultz at some point. Chief Schultz served the residents of Fullerton and Brea for 30 years and as our fire chief since 2015. In addition, he has passed along his fire ground knowledge to countless firefighter candidates as a member of the Santa Ana College Basic Fire Academy."
Schultz, 54, was named Garden Grove fire chief on April 29, 2015, following a 30-year career with the Fullerton Fire Department, leading its management consolidation with the Brea Fire Department when he served as deputy chief.
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In 2018, he notified the city manager of his decision to retire, effective Sept. 14, but at the city manager's request, he continued to serve until the end of that year, while a decision was made on whether to retain the city fire department or transfer to the Orange County Fire Authority.
"Garden Grove has lost an admirable man and an exceptional leader who proudly devoted himself to protecting lives serving a community that will forever be in his debt,'' Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones said Sunday.
"Our most heartfelt thoughts and condolences are with his family during this difficult time, shared by all those who knew him.''
He died around noon Sunday, according to Garden Grove City Manager Scott Stiles. A GoFundMe account has been set up to assist his family, according to Garden Grove Fire Department Capt. Thanh Nguyen.
Schultz sought medical care at St. Jude Medical Center in early January after experiencing abdominal discomfort, according to the GoFundMe page.