Laguna Beach Fire Captain Patrick Cary works on a crew that works with the California Office of Emergency Services, which has deployed them to wildfires in Mendocino, Big Bear, Santa Barbara and even as far away as New Mexico. Some of these disasters eventually claimed the lives of their peers.
“It’s always sobering to be around wildfires where there are firefighter fatalities near where you work and it raises your awareness because it can be a dangerous job,” Cary wrote in an email Friday, few Days after he was publicly recognized as the department’s 2022 Firefighter of the Year on social media.
Cary was nominated by fellow firefighters, and her nomination received unanimous support from all Laguna Beach Fire executives.
He credited training, preparation, and years of experience to help him weather numerous major disasters. The wildland firefighter said the hardest part about being sent to the brink of a massive fire was being separated from his wife Rosslyn Cary, seven, as well as their son Emmett, 3, and daughter Everly, 10-month-old.
“When I was sent to the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire in New Mexico in May 2022, I was sent for 19 days, and at the time my daughter was only 3 weeks old,” he said. “Fortunately, we have a very good support group with families and a lot of people around us who are willing to step in and help.”
When the Orange County native isn’t battling blazes in distant woods or spending time back home in Costa Mesa with loved ones — including a goldendoodle named Indy — he’s usually at Fire Station #3 on the lookout for residents at the Top of the World area. He said he feels “truly blessed” to be part of a “close-knit fire department” that receives an abundance of community support.
Among memorable experiences during his time in Orange County was a call with a patient who went into cardiac arrest while practicing on a high school track one winter morning, Cary said. The young man regained consciousness and came to the station two weeks later to thank the firefighters for arranging for him to spend the holidays with his family.
Cary also recalled how he and his team struggled to keep a home alive during the Thomas fire in Santa Barbara in 2017. By the time this disaster was contained, over 1,000 other buildings had been destroyed.
His owner “cried so grateful that his home was saved and protected,” Cary said. “I still have that voicemail.”
The veteran emergency first responder said mentoring new or aspiring firefighters and paramedics, and educating the public, particularly through one-on-one meetings, are the best parts of his job. He said he’s often seen at CPR training events and other educational events in and around Laguna Beach.
“I don’t have a favorite spot,” said the Nebraska Cornhuskers fan. “I love everything about being a firefighter.”
He said his best friend’s father was a firefighter and one of his earliest inspirations to join the profession. Cary later became a Los Angeles County lifeguard and ambulance driver for the Long Beach Fire Department before joining the Laguna Beach Fire in October 2011.
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