VISTA, Calif. (KGTV)- Across Vista, there were tributes for a beloved firefighter, a day after he died from a battle with cancer.
At fire stations and city buildings, flags lowered to half staff, followed by moments of silence.
“It hit us all pretty hard,” said Vista Fire Captain Brendan Halle.
He admitted he couldn’t help but dwell on all the conversations and all the calls they went out on.
“Andy is such a positive life force … to have that taken away just leaves a gaping hole in our hearts,” said Halle.
Andy Valenta, a 10-year-veteran of Vista Fire, learned he had cancer in January. Valenta's fire family quickly rallied around his young family.
A drive-by procession surprised Valenta's daughter Lily on her 4th birthday outside their Temecula home. Some 12 engines and dozens of vehicles turned out, representing fire agencies from all across the county.
“That was gratifying to see … We fight fires together and travel up and down the state, and it’s just a really unique bond that’s formed between people,” said Halle.
Eventually, tests determined the cancer was stage 4 Melanoma, which had spread to his brain and throughout his body. After a three-month battle, Valenta passed away Sunday at the age of 33. He is survived by his wife, Caylie, and daughters, Lily, 4, and Grace, 2.
“The news came pretty heavy for us,” said Halle.
His fellow firefighters are remembering a man who was well-liked and well respected.
“With him, everything was a 110%. He was really really gregarious and a great cook … The hole he's left in people is he understood more than most what it means when we’d show up and we’d come in and we’re here for each other 24 hours a day — and for the communities that we serve,” said Halle.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the family with expenses.