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SAN DIEGO — Flags at California’s Capitol will fly at half-staff in honor of a longtime Rancho Santa Fe firefighter who died from coronavirus complications.

The Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District announced Fire Captain W. Chris Mertz’s death on Jan. 21. The 54-year-old was a 30-year veteran of the department, most recently working at RSF Fire Station 5 in Harmony Grove Village.

He was highly regarded in his field with stops at Federal Fire Department San Diego and the U.S. Forest Service. He also responded to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement Tuesday about Mertz’s death, saying Mertz devoted his life to protecting his fellow Californians.

“His tremendous bravery, dedication and sacrifice will not be forgotten. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time,” Newsom said.

Mertz is survived by his parents, wife, two daughters who serve in the U.S. Air Force, and a son who is a firefighter with CAL FIRE.

“Chris and his family are the epitome of the American ideal – people who love their country and committed their lives to serving their fellow citizens,” the department said in a news release.

Donations in Mertz’s memory can be made to the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Foundation at