SACRAMENTO -- The Cosumnes Fire Department is mourning the loss of a fellow firefighter.
Albaro Meraz died Saturday in a single-vehicle crash on Highway 99 in Sacramento. He was a 17-year veteran of the fire department.
"His spirit, just a wonderful, gregarious spirit," said Cosumnes Fire Chief Mike McLaughlin. "It’s somebody that you met him the first time and you like him immediately. That’s Al."
The crash happened just before 2 p.m. when the 52-year-old lost control of his Toyota.
Flags were at half-staff and black bands were put over badges Sunday as symbols that the firefighters were mourning the loss of one of their own.
"To lose a member of our family, it saddens us deeply and truly breaks our hearts," McLaughlin said.
Brian Rose said he and his brother were driving by and saw the whole thing. They decided to pull over.
"My first thought was the best way that I can help is call 911," Rose told FOX40.
His brother knows CPR so he ran to the car to help.
"That’s when somebody noticed there was a fire under the vehicle," Rose recalled. "So my brother got an extinguisher from another witness, put out the fire and disconnected the vehicle's battery so it couldn’t restart."
They tried to administer CPR but Meraz did not make it.
"I know we did everything we could to try to help him but it sometimes doesn’t make it better. Because, ultimately, he, unfortunately, didn’t make it," Rose said.
While the California Highway Patrol investigates what caused the crash, the fire department is relying on its peer counseling program to get through the tragedy.
"This is about taking care of his family now and honoring Al’s memory and the wonderful legacy he’s left behind for us," McLaughlin said.
From working to get smoke detectors to non-English speaking neighbors, to training firefighters from western Mexico, to winning a Valor award for saving another person’s life, Meraz’s accomplishments speak for themselves.
"Just committed to service," McLaughlin said. "But that’s who he was each and every day."
Meraz was a husband and father. The fire chief says they are doing everything they can to try to help his family in this tough time.