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Isaac Garcia was naturally clumsy, so he felt that, to stay in peak condition as a Santa Fe County firefighter, he had to work extra hard. He loved to do triathlons and go ice climbing. He didn’t believe in taking days off. Commissioner Anna Hamilton, a volunteer firefighter herself, said Garcia was known for his work ethic when it came to training.
Garcia was 25 years old when he died from an aortic dissection in March 2012, but now his legacy will live on. The Santa Fe County Commission recently voted to name the Agua Fría Fire District training tower after him. They also proclaimed Jan. 12 “Isaac Garcia Day.”
Garcia started his fire service career before he was old enough to drive. His mother used to drive him to fire cadet training and meetings as a teenager.
He went on to become a career firefighter for Santa Fe County, working alongside friends and fellow firefighters Garrett Allen and Jacob Black.
Allen was friends with Garcia years before they started working together at the fire department. They first met as skiing pals before graduating from the fire department academy together in 2007.
Garcia was born in a region of India known for poverty and to have an opportunity in America was an opportunity at a better life, Allen said. He ended up being adopted by a family in New Mexico and never forgot how lucky he was to come live here.
“He really had a deep desire to give back,” Allen said. “He felt like he had been given more than he had ever deserved, and so he thought the best thing he could do is to pay that forward.”
Garcia wanted to get involved in a career that would help people. He became one of the youngest members of the Atalaya Search and Rescue crew, and he hoped to one day become a pararescueman and a member of the U.S. Air Force Special Forces.
“The depth of his character is pure,” Allen said.
He recalled a time when Garcia was driving on Interstate 25 and encountered a driver going the wrong way. He quickly pulled over to avoid being hit and later found out the driver got into an accident farther down the interstate, killing a family.
“Isaac felt like he had missed an opportunity to, as he put it, take a bullet and give up his life to save a family that he never met,” Allen said.
Black, now assistant fire chief for the county, remembers Garcia as full of life and energy. He was someone who would smile and light up the room.
Garcia was a very strong firefighter and pushed people to be better, Black said. He was humble and always eager to learn. If he were alive today, Black said they probably wouldn’t be able to pull Garcia off the training tower.
But Garcia’s legacy will live on in other ways besides the training tower. When Allen’s youngest son was born, they named him Isaac, after Garcia.
“Simply because of what Isaac’s spirit represented for us … it just won’t be forgotten,” he said. “And there are many attributes that Isaac demonstrated when my wife and I had found out that she was pregnant; it seemed a very fitting honor to name our son after Isaac.”