RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. (KGTV) -- A 30-year veteran of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District died on Wednesday due to complications of COVID-19, the agency announced Thursday.
Most recently, Fire Captain W. Chris Mertz, 54, called Fire Station 5 in Harmony Grove Village home base. He has worked with the RSFFPD for the last three decades.
According to Facebook fundraiser page Mertz was hospitalized with COVID-19 on Jan. 4.
Capt. Mertz' had a distinguished early career before his time with the RSFFPD. Mertz dedicated time with the Federal Fire Department - San Diego and the U.S. Forest Service. With the USFS, Mertz served on the Laguna Hot Shots -- an elite hand crew based out of the Descanso Ranger District. Captin Mertz was still active and one of the original members of FEMA's San Diego Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 8.
Mertz was also a first responder at Ground Zero when the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11, and deployed to New Orleans in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast.
"Our hearts go out to Chris’ family; he is survived by his wife Canli, his son Garrett, who is also a firefighter with Cal-FIRE San Diego, and his two daughters, Natalie and Roxanne, both who are proudly serving our Country in the United States Air Force," RSFFPD said
Captain Mertz will receive full line-of-duty death honors, the RSFFPD said. Details about the ceremony were not released.