Coachella Valley Region
On this day you’ll find broken hearts and flags at half staff at fire stations throughout the Coachella Valley. Firefighters are mourning the death of one of their own, 41-year-old Sara Thomas.
"A 16 year veteran of Cal Fire, Sara was fighting a long courageous battle against cancer," says Cal Fire Riverside County Captain Fernando Herrera.
Thomas died early Monday morning at her home in Desert Hot Springs. Her firefighter family did everything they could to support her during her illness, including holding fundraisers. Her colleagues say despite being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer two years ago, Thomas held on to hope. A firefighter at heart, she fought bravely. Nothing got her down.
"She took it and spit it right back you … she was a well rounded firefighter a good person at heart you know and she was always ready to go if the bell rang," says Herrera.
Herrera says her last assignment was in the very city where she was born, "This was her home this is where she spent the last of her years in the Indio battalion and she will be missed dearly."
They say once you become a firefighter you gain a large, extended family, forever.
"This is our second home, this is our second set of family our friends, you know we love each other we work with each other for so many years and we go through so much."
So yes, Thomas will always be a part of their family but now will play a different role.
"We’ll always remember Sara and anytime the bell goes off .. we know Sara’s somewhere around ready to watch over us and keep us safe," says Herrera.
Cal Fire Riverside County Fire Department Chief John R. Hawkins released this statement:
"We are deeply saddened to hear of Sara’s passing, and want to express our most sincere sympathies to the Thomas family during this difficult time. Sara was a highly valuable and a respected member of our Department, and the effects of her passing are already being felt by her fellow CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department family."
Funeral arrangements for Thomas have not finalized.