SAN DIEGO – A longtime firefighter with the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District and a father of three died Wednesday of COVID-19 complications, the department said Thursday.
Fire Captain W. Chris Mertz was a 30-year veteran of the department, most recently working at RSF Fire Station 5 in Harmony Grove Village. Mertz, 54, 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 to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“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 statement.
Surviving Mertz are his wife Canli, his son Garrett — a firefighter with Cal Fire San Diego — and his two daughters, Natalie and Roxanne, who both serve in the U.S. Air Force.
He will receive full line-of-duty death honors, according to the department.
Donations in Mertz’s memory can be made to the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Foundation at rsf-firefoundation.org.