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Somber Memorial Held for Santa Barbara Firefighter Daniel Corrigan

The 35-year-old, who died March 4 from unknown causes, is remembered as a dedicated colleague and devoted fiancé and father

Santa BarbaraFire Chief Pat McElroy presents a flag to firefighter Daniel Corrigan’s fiancée, Sarah Starr, during Friday’s memorial service. Corrigan, 35, died March 4 from unknown causes.
Santa BarbaraFire Chief Pat McElroy presents a flag to firefighter Daniel Corrigan’s fiancée, Sarah Starr, during Friday’s memorial service. Corrigan, 35, died March 4 from unknown causes. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

A somber procession of firefighters greeted Daniel Corrigan’s flag-draped casket Friday as the Santa Barbara fire truck carrying it made its along East Cabrillo Boulevard, and tourists and motorists on the waterfront stopped to watch with rapt attention.

Corrigan
Family and friends comfort Daniel Corrigan’s fiancée, Sarah Starr. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Hundreds gathered to remember Corrigan, 35, a firefighter with the Santa Barbara Fire Department who died March 4 from unknown causes. Fellow firefighters found him in his vehicle, which was parked outside Fire Station 8 at the Santa Barbara Airport.

On Friday at The Fess Parker, family and friends described Corrigan as a hard worker with a sarcastic sense of humor, a man who enjoyed tinkering with cars, being a firefighter and helping others.

His is survived by his parents, John and Anne; his sisters, Debbie and Roseanne; as well as his fiancée, Sarah Starr, who is a sergeant with the Ventura Police Department.

Starr and Corrigan have a 1½-year-old son, Jack, and Starr is due with their second child in May.

Corrigan, who had a degree in mechanical engineering from Cal Poly Pomona, came to firefighting as a career after working for Union Pacific Railroad out of Long Beach.

He was hired by the Fresno Fire Department in 2007 and held the rank of firefighter for six years.

In 2013, Corrigan was one of three Fresno firefighters who transferred to the Santa Barbara Fire Department, and Noozhawk wrote about his graduation from the academy at that time.

Before the memorial service, Capt. Chris Mailes spoke with the media and said the results of Corrigan’s autopsy have not been made public yet. A cause of death is still pending, he said.

In response to critics who raised concerns that taxpayer dollars were being used for the funeral procession, Mailes said the “cost to taxpayers is minimal,” considering all of the firefighters who attended the memorial Friday were off duty and the department is precluded from using funds for that purpose.

The funeral itself was paid for by the Santa Barbara City Firefighters Association, officials said, and a special memorial management team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department helped orchestrate the memorial.

Mailes said Santa Barbara was covered for fire protection because other mutual-aid departments, such as those of Montecito and Carpinteria-Summerland, had stepped up to watch over the city during the hour-long memorial service.

A dozen agencies, including the Fresno Fire Department, participated in the procession and memorial.

Santa Barbara Fire Capt. Gary Pitney welcomed the crowd, stating that “we are here today to cry and laugh and share openly our love for Daniel Corrigan.”

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Daniel Corrigan’s casket lies atop a Santa Barbara fire engine on Cabrillo Boulevard before his memorial service Friday at The Fess Parker. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“That has to be the longest walk anybody can make,” Santa Barbara Fire Chaplain Jerry Gray told Corrigan’s family after they were seated. “We are here to support you in any way we can.”

Fire Chief Pat McElroy recalled Corrigan’s beginning at SBFD, after he passed through an intense competition process to be one of the select few allowed to do a lateral transfer to Santa Barbara from Fresno.

“We said, ‘We’ve got to get this guy,’” McElroy recalled.

More than just an asset to the department, Corrigan was well loved by his family.

But first and foremost, “Dan was Sarah’s man,” McElroy said, his voice breaking as he acknowledged Starr. “(His family) was who he loved and where his great heart lay.”

Corrigan
Hundreds of family members, friends and fellow firefighters of Daniel Corrigan gathered for his memorial service Friday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Friends also took the stage to share memories, including Corrigan’s longtime friend, Jerry Hulse, who met Corrigan while the two attended Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward.

Corrigan played football at the school, where he earned the nickname “Thunder Dan,” and Hulse said both men had found their sweethearts later in life, but that they were worth the wait.

Hulse said he had been looking forward to Starr and Corrigan’s wedding, and enjoyed watching Corrigan become a father and step into the role capably.

“He is the best father I have ever known,” he said.

Hulse said that when Corrigan was accepted into the department in Santa Barbara, he saved the article on his phone, and remembered the last line, which read, “Today the real work begins.”

Hulse said that’s how he feels about taking care of Starr and her children in Corrigan’s absence, and pledged to be with the family through their loss.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

(L. Paul Cook video)

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