A 33-year-old fire captain with the Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit died last week in an off-duty hiking accident at Pfeiffer Burns State Park near Big Sur. David William Lutz served most recently as a fire captain stationed at the El Granada station, part of the Coastside Fire Protection District.
A native of Santa Cruz County, he grew up in Corralitos, a small town north of Watsonville. He completed the Monterey Fire Academy and started his career as a firefighter in 2008.
Lutz was known for his deep faith and his personal relationship with God, Cal Fire said in a prepared statement. He came from a family of eight siblings in addition to his parents. He was a father to two young children. His wife, Tisha, is currently expecting the couple’s third child.
“He was by far my most adventurous son,” his father Michael Lutz said. “There was very little that he did not want to do. He loved to surf, the outdoors, being with his friends. He had a lot of big plans for his family and his future.”
From an early age Lutz expressed interest in fire service. He began his career as a volunteer firefighter with the Corralitos Cal Fire station and in 2008 started as a firefighter with the San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit. He had been stationed in El Granada for about two to three years.
“He loved the idea of being in a position where he could have an impact,” Michael Lutz said. “He loved search and rescue and anything he could do to help people who were in pain or suffering. He wanted to make a difference.”
Battalion Chief Ken Lord worked with Lutz as training instructors for fire academies and specialized classes.
“He was a phenomenal trainer and very good at the technical search and rescue skills,” Lord said. “David had the unique ability to recall stuff. He was incredible, super mellow and low-key. He was patient with all the students. Just a real good instructor.”
Lord and CFPD Battalion Chief Dave Cosgrave both said they were shocked by news of Lutz’s death.
“It’s so very sad; he was so young,” said Lord, who noted Lutz’s 34th birthday would have been July 1.
“I am still in disbelief,” Cosgrave said. “He was a great mentor to the other firefighters. It’s a huge loss.”
Lutz’s family set up a Go FundMe page to pay for funeral and memorial costs. It has already received donations from more than 450 people.
“To be honest, you get a hole in your heart,” his father said. “We are family that holds our faith very dearly. David is dead, but he has not died. He is not gone. He’s just moved on.”
Michael Lutz said he has not received much information about the events leading up to his son’s death, other than he was found in the Big Sur River.
“He was an athletic man familiar with search and rescue. The most competent person to be in that environment,” he said.
As he mourns the loss of his son, Michael Lutz said he’s appreciative of the support of his family and Cal Fire.
“His passion was his family and the fellowship of Cal Fire,” Michael Lutz said.