Laguna Beach Fire Department names self-described ‘family man’ as 2022 firefighter of the year

Laguna Beach Fire Capt. Patrick Cary has been named firefighter of the year.
Laguna Beach Fire Capt. Patrick Cary has been named the department’s firefighter of the year for 2022.
(Courtesy of the Laguna Beach Fire Department)

Laguna Beach Fire Capt. Patrick Cary works on a crew partnered with the California Office of Emergency Services, which has deployed them to forest fires in Mendocino, Big Bear, Santa Barbara, and even as far out as New Mexico. Some of those catastrophes wound up claiming the lives of their colleagues.

“Being on wildfires where there are firefighter fatalities close to where you are working is always sobering, and it heightens your awareness because this can be a dangerous job,” Cary wrote in an email Friday, a few days after he was publicly recognized as the department’s firefighter of the year for 2022 on social media.

Cary was nominated by fellow firefighters, and their suggestion was unanimously supported by all Laguna Beach Fire management staff.

He credited training, preparation and years of experience for helping him make it through numerous large-scale disasters. The wildland firefighter said the hardest part about being dispatched to the edge of a massive blaze is being away from his wife of seven years, Rosslyn Cary, as well as their 3-year-old son, Emmett, and their 10-month-old daughter, Everly.

“When I got sent to the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire in New Mexico in May of 2022, I was sent for 19 days, and at the time my daughter was only 3 weeks old,” he said. “Luckily, we have a very good support group around us with family and a lot of people willing to step in and help out.”

When the Orange County native isn’t away battling flames in distant forests or at home in Costa Mesa spending time with his loved ones — including a goldendoodle named Indy — he’s usually at Fire Station #3 looking out for residents in the Top of the World area. He said he feels “truly blessed” to be a part of a “tight-knit fire department” that receives a wealth of community support.

Memorable experiences during his time working in Orange County included one call involving a patient who collapsed in cardiac arrest one winter morning while training on a high school track, Cary said. The young man regained consciousness and then came to the station two weeks later to thank firefighters for ensuring he’d be able to spend the holidays with his family.

Cary also recalled how he and his team fought to keep a home standing during the Thomas fire in Santa Barbara in 2017. By the time that disaster had been contained, over 1,000 other structures had been destroyed.

Its owner “called in tears so grateful that his house was saved and protected,” Cary said. “I still have that voicemail.”

The veteran emergency first-responder said mentoring new or prospective firefighters and paramedics as well as educating the public, especially in one-on-one settings, are the best parts of his job. He said he can often be spotted at CPR training events and other educational functions in and around Laguna Beach.

“I don’t have a least favorite part,” the Nebraska Cornhuskers fan said. “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 went on to become a Los Angeles County lifeguard and an ambulance operator for the Long Beach Fire Department before joining Laguna Beach Fire in October 2011.

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