Former Garden Grove Fire Department Chief Tom Schultz died Sunday after a battle with pancreatic and liver cancer, the department announced.

“Words alone cannot describe the immeasurable heartache felt by his family and friends, including his Garden Grove, Fullerton, and Brea fire families,” Acting Fire Chief T.J. McGovern said.

“Our firefighter brother, Fire Chief Tom Schultz, succumbed to hi illness and passed away today,” Garden Grove Fire Department Captain Thanh Nguyen said. “Words alone cannot describe the immeasurable heartache felt by his family and friends, including his Garden Grove, Fullerton and Brea fire families.”

“Anyone who is in the Orange County Fire Service has more than likely been influenced by Chief Schultz at some point. Chief Schultz served the residents of Fullerton and Brea for 30 years and as our fire chief since 2015,” Nguyen said. “In addition, he has passed along his fire ground knowledge to countless firefighter candidates as a member of the Santa Ana College Basic Fire Academy.”

Schultz, 54, was named Garden Grove fire chief on April 29, 2015, following a 30-year career with the Fullerton Fire Department, leading its management consolidation with the Brea Fire Department when he served as deputy chief.

In 2018, he notified the city manager of his decision to retire, effective Sept. 14, but at the city manager’s request, he continued to serve until the end of the year, while a decision was made on whether to retain the city fire department or transfer to the Orange County Fire Authority.

“Garden Grove has lost an admirable man and an exceptional leader who proudly devoted himself to protecting lives serving a community that will forever be in his debt,” Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones said Sunday. “Our most heartfelt thoughts and condolences are with his family during this difficult time, shared by all those who knew him.”

Former City Councilman Kris Beard described Schultz as a “great guy” in addition to being an effective public servant.

“It’s a very sad day for the city of Garden Grove,” Beard said. “Chief Schultz was a remarkable man and a superb fire chief. He was extremely intelligent and experienced and he cared about the department and delivering top quality fire services to the city.”

He died about noon Sunday, according to Garden Grove City Manager Scott Stiles.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to assist his family, according to Garden Grove Fire Department Capt. Thanh Nguyen.

Schultz sought medical care at St. Jude Medical Center in early January after experiencing abdominal discomfort, according to the GoFundMe page.

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