Mourning a hero
DOWNEY - Brian Wolf, a Downey native who rose through the ranks of the Downey Fire Department to eventually become a captain and battalion chief, died Sunday afternoon following a two-year battle with melanoma cancer. He is survived by wife April; daughter McKenzie; and son Logan.
A public memorial service will take place Friday, July 26, at 11 a.m. at St. John of God Church in Norwalk, followed by private graveside services open to family and Downey fire personnel only. A public reception at St. Raymond's Catholic Church is planned for about 2 p.m.
"Brian was one of the most talented, dedicated and loyal firefighters to have ever worn the Downey Fire Department uniform," said Fire Chief Lonnie Croom. "I am grateful to have known Brian his entire life and to have served with him as Downey firefighters for our entire adult lives.
"I will truly miss him, not only as a fellow chief officer, but my dear friend."
Out of privacy for the family, city officials did not offer details on Wolf's passing. A procession of Downey firefighters and police officers escorted his body Sunday night to a Bellflower mortuary.
Firefighters from Vernon, Montebello, Santa Fe Springs and Compton handled fire and medical emergency calls in Downey Sunday night to allow Downey firefighters an opportunity to grieve and pay their respects.
Wolf, 44, was born and raised in Downey. He attended St. Mark's School and Warren High School, graduating in 1987.
While in high school he enrolled in the Downey Fire Department's explorer program and at age 18 attended the Rio Hondo Fire Academy. He was hired by the Downey Fire Department in 1989. Wolf served as a firefighter for seven years until earning paramedic certification in 1996. He was promoted to fire engineer in 2001 and, in 2003, was assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau.
A promotion to captain came in 2005, where he worked as a department training officer. In 2012 he was promoted to battalion chief assigned to the "C" platoon.
In 1990, Wolf was recognized for his heroic rescue actions during the police shootings at the PACE warehouse on Florence Avenue. He was named Firefighter of the Year by various organizations in 2002, 2005 and 2008.
Even as he was promoted within the department, Wolf remained involved with the fire explorer program. He recently oversaw the recruitment and training of Downey's 10 newest firefighters, who graduated last month.
Wolf received his BA degree in Fire Science from Columbia Southern. At the time of his death, he was studying for a master's in Fire Administration. As a general contractor off-duty, Wolf's construction knowledge made him a critical member of the department's Urban Search and Rescue team. He was also certified as a hazardous materials specialist with the California State Training Institute.
"It is a very sad time for our city, as we have lost one of our own, one of Downey's finest," Mayor Mario Guerra said in a prepared statement. "I had the privilege, just as many others, to have known Chief Wolf and he was a true gentleman. He was a special man in a class by himself and I was proud to have called him a friend.
"To the entire Wolf family, please know that we hold you all in our thoughts and prayers, and hope you soon find peace and comfort in your hearts." Wolf was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma cancer in 2011. Friends, family and co-workers rallied, raising more than $7,000 to send Wolf and his family to Texas for a Dallas Cowboys football game.
After Wolf's death, condolences poured in from fire officials, community members and even total strangers from throughout the area.
"We lost a great man today. Battalion Chief Brian Wolf will be missed but never forgotten," the Downey Firemen's Association said in a statement. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the Wolf family. Rest in peace, brother."
"Nothing we can say or do can change what has happened," said Fr. John Higgins, pastor at St. Raymond's Catholic Church and the fire department's former chaplain. "But what we say and do can and will show how much we love and support Brian's family and each other."
Darren Moon, a retired Downey fire marshal, said Wolf was a "dedicated firefighter who took great pride in both his family and his career. He was a great man and will be missed by many."
Mayor Pro Tem Fernando Vasquez said Downey was "blessed to have had such a remarkable public servant."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Wolf family during this difficult time," he said.
Patrick Dunn, a battalion chief at the Vallejo Fire Department, said he was "truly honored to call Brian my friend."
"Prayers and thoughts to his family and all of his DFD family tonight," Dunn wrote on the Patriot's Facebook page. "All your brothers and sisters at Vallejo Fire are thinking about you."
"I remember Brian as a youngster when all he wanted was to be a firefighter," wrote Katie Callahan Wright. "Love and healing to his family."
"The Downey City family is mourning the passing of Battalion Chief Brian Wolf and we extend our deepest condolences to the Wolf family during this difficult time," city manager Gilbert Livas said in a statement. "We have lost a true hero in our community and he will be deeply missed by everyone."
********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15