Last Monday, April 11 was a dark day for the Golder Ranch Fire District when one of its own, firefighter Jose Samaniego, passed away surrounded by his family.
“Firefighter Samaniego was hospitalized last week with a serious illness. However, he did not respond to treatment and declined rapidly,” said Anne-Marie Braswell, GRFD community relations manager.
Only 33-years-old, Samaniego began his journey as a first responder 14 years ago as a wildland firefighter and as a member of the Avra Valley Fire District. Before joining Golder Ranch at the beginning of 2012, he worked out of Raytheon. While at Golder Ranch, Samaniego trained and certified as a member of the special operations team, which specializes in technical rescues and incidents involving hazardous materials.
GRFD Fire Chief Randy Karrer said that even during the hiring process, Samaniego stood out as an individual of strong character, and a lot of positive energy.
“You can train anybody to do the job, but you hire for attitude and character, and Jose had a very unique, community-driven character that fit right in to our organization,” Karrer said. “He wanted to do whatever he could do to help people; he had this very unique passion to try to be the best he could be at helping others.”
As a member of the department, Samaniego joined the crew of then engineer Ryan Miller, now a captain at GRFD. Whether on a call or working around the station, Miller said Samaniego was a man of his word, a responsible and capable firefighter.
“Passion is the word to describe him, and in so many ways,” Miller said. “He was so passionate about not only our job as fire fighters, but our job in the special teams. You could talk to him about ropes and resultants, anything, and he could talk to you forever about it. ...As a captain and especially as a new captain, to have Jose on your crew: he was a go-getter, he went after everything, he took care of what you asked of him. Half the time, things were done even before you asked for them.”
Whether working on a crew or organizing charity barbecues and other benefits as charity chair of the North Tucson Firefighter’s Association- Local 3832, association president and GRFD Capt. Steve Lunde said Samaniego’s passion for public service and improving the world in which he lived went further than his role as a firefighter.
“He was a great father, a great husband - he’s just irreplaceable to our organization,” Lunde said. “Everything that he did, he was just so selfless.”
Since Samaniego passed, Karrer said the response from the entire community, from Green Valley to Phoenix, has shown just how much the young man meant to so many people.
“In his career he saw a lot of nasty stuff, as all of us have, and part of dealing with it is giving back to the community and helping others,” Karrer said. “You feel a sense of not only self worth, but that you’ve accomplished something, that you were put on this Earth to do something, spread goodwill. I believe that Jose did that, he did goodwill, he paid it forward.”
Happily married to his wife, Serena, Samaniego had four young children from 5 to 11 years old. To support the family moving forward a fund has been established, which can be found at www.generosity.com/memorial-fundraising/jose-samaniego-family-memorial-fund.