Santana had worked in the Gilroy Rural Fire District and the South Santa Clara County Fire District for the majority of his career before transferring to the CAL Fire SCU Del Puerto station, located at 2142 Sperry Road in Patterson. He worked for 15 years in Patterson before settling down for retirement in 2005.
Recently, the local West Sider had been afflicted by occupational cancer, caused by exposures to hazardous materials during his career, said retired CAL Fire Chief Steve Barrett, who has been a constant cohort and coworker of Santana in the Patterson area.
The constant exposure to carcinogen, a substance which increases the risk of developing cancer, later attributed to Santana’s diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a diverse group of blood cancers derived from lymphocytes —a type of white blood cell.
“He worked in a major structure fire in the 1980s, where he was repeatedly exposed to hazardous materials from the fire,” said Barrett on Thursday afternoon.
Barrett added that Santana returned to the San Jose, Gilroy area for treatment, where the majority of his family resides.
Although Santana had been undergoing treatments for the last year and half, Barrett said the medicine was not enough to help stop the progression of his cancer; the current treatment was merely a comfort staple.
Despite knowing the potential consequence of his decision, Santana knew it was time to come home to his residence in Newman with his wife, Nancy. Early that evening, families and friends gathered at the crossroads between Interstate-5 and Route 140 on Sullivan Road, just south of Gustine, waiting for Santana’s return.
The hospice transfer was a dangerous mission in itself because of the distance and Santana’s condition. An assembly of nine engines throughout several counties escorted Santana during his journey, including three engines from Gilroy to the top of Dinosaur point; one engine from CAL Fire and two from Merced County, which took over the fleet from Dinosaur Point to Highway 140; and two engines from Patterson/West Stanislaus Fire Department and one CAL Fire, Del Puerto, which escorted Santana from Highway 140 to his Newman residence.
“We are trying to make it as good as we can for him and the family,” said Barrett, who was part of his hospice care. “The house has to be set up for him. He is only given a limited time, so the transport was really dangerous for him, but it’s his wish.”
Despite implications and a delay in transfer, Santana was transported safely to his home in Newman, where well-wishers, fellow colleagues and family members gathered to show their support for the brave man’s livelihood.
“He is someone that we all love dearly,” said Barrett. “He is a great fire captain and a wonderful, compassionate human being. We wanted this to be as good as possible for him.”
On the morning of Friday, Dec. 20, Peter Santana passed away.
Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24, or firstname.lastname@example.org.