Garden Grove Fire Chief Tom Schultz died Sunday following a brief battle with cancer, the department said. He was 54.
Shultz's death came just one day after fellow firefighters announced he was battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
He served as chief of the Garden Grove Fire Department since 2015, according to the agency. He also served the communities of Fullerton and Brea during his three-decade-long firefighting career, Garden Grove city officials said in a written statement.
"Garden Grove has lost an admirable man and an exceptional leader who proudly devoted himself to protecting lives and serving a community that will forever be in his debt," Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones said. "Our most heartfelt thoughts and condolences are with his family during this difficult time, shared by all those who knew him."
Prior to leading the Garden Grove Fire Department, Shultz spent 30 years with the Fullerton Fire Department, presiding over the agency's consolidation with the Brea Fire Department as deputy chief, city officials said.
He mentored the upcoming crop of firefighters as an instructor in Santa Ana College's fire technology program and was a leader in organizations including the Orange County Fire Chiefs' Association.
Schultz retired in September, "but at the request of City Manager Scott Stiles, continued to serve as annuitant fire chief," according to the city statement.
“I have the highest regard and appreciation for Chief Schultz’s remarkable leadership of the Garden Grove Fire Department," Stiles said. His dedication, enthusiasm, and passion for this city and community are unmatched. He was a good friend, and a man of principle, devoted to his family and to the men and women of the Garden Grove Fire Department. He will be deeply missed."
Shultz was diagnosed with advanced-stage pancreatic cancer earlier this month after seeking treatment for abdominal pain at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, city officials said. The disease had already spread to his liver.
"Schultz began chemotherapy treatments at St. Jude to reduce the size of the cancer and minimize the side effects associated with the cancer," the city statement said. "On Saturday, Schultz’s condition worsened, leading to his passing (Sunday) afternoon."
"His wife of over 30 years, Kim, their two daughters, son, and other close family members were at his side," the statement said.
Fellow firefighters lined a procession route as the body of Chief Shultz was taken from the hospital to McAulay & Wallace Mortuary in Fullerton.
An online account at gofundme.com/f/support-for-fire-chief-tom-schultz-amp-family, initially set up to help with Shultz's treatment, will now be used to help his family following his death, colleagues said.
Division Chief T.J. McGovern will serve as acting fire chief until further notice.