fire chief honored as Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan
By Kevin Milliken,
La Prensa Correspondent
Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago could not attend a gala
in Columbus on Fri. Oct. 11, 2013 because of his professional
duties, but nonetheless is humbled to be named among several
2013 Distinguished Hispanic Ohioans.
Instead, Chief Santiago had to attend visitation and a funeral
of a recently-retired Toledo firefighter, a close colleague he
worked with at Station 18 on Lewis Ave and promoted to battalion
chief in 2011. The fire chief and the late Peter Jaegly
even attended St. Patrick of Heatherdowns School together as
children. Jaegly retired last November and died last week after
a two-and-a-half year battle with cancer.
“It’s quite an honor. Obviously, that’s something that’s not
taken lightly with the people who make those decisions,” said
Chief Santiago. “It’s humbling. It’s very humbling.”
Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago
Chief Santiago rose through the ranks of the fire department and
took the oath of office as Toledo’s first Latino fire chief a
little over two years ago.
Some city leaders even have speculated
Santiago may be the first Latino fire chief ever among Ohio’s
Chief Santiago, 49, now
has nearly 30 years of firefighting and incident command
experience. He leads a department of over 500 firefighters as
well as civilian dispatchers, arson investigators and
administrative staff. He first joined the fire department in May
1984 and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1988, Captain in 1993,
Battalion Chief in 2000 and Assistant Chief in 2007.
“I just try to conduct myself and carry on my mission with the
fire department in such a way that I try to do the right thing,
try to do it the right way, and if that gets recognized, then so
be it, I guess,” said Chief Santiago. “That’s where I’m coming
He called the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan recognition as much
an award for the fire department’s excellence as it is for
himself as a professional.
“I represent a group of people that are extraordinary people,”
said Chief Santiago. “I’m so lucky to be in charge of a great
department. It’s some of that. Part of it is my upbringing. So
there are a lot of contributing factors that got me to where I’m
The fire chief coached football for 26 years, but had to give it
up when his schedule as the city’s top firefighter became too
busy to continue. He stated kids he coached still come back to
him and tell him about the effect he had on their lives, calling
it “so rewarding.” He presently serves on the board of The
Knight Academy, the Toledo Zoo Foundation board, and has become
more active with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo.
“You can never forget how you got to where you got to,” said
Chief Santiago. “You always have to anticipate that you’re going
to be the benefactor of some breaks yourself. With that in mind,
you’ve just got to do the right thing.”
The St. Francis High School graduate hopes the award will
continue to show young Latinos the good example he has tried to
set for them over the years.
“Hopefully it is an indicator that if you put your mind to it,
you can do just about anything you want,” Chief Santiago said.
“Back in my high school days, my younger days, I wasn’t
necessarily as focused as I should have been, but was still
lucky enough to be on a track where success was out there if I
The Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Awards were presented during
the 2013 OCHLA and León Awards Gala in Columbus. Others
receiving the honor included Benito Lucio of Columbus,
of Cincinnati, Nancy Méndez of Cleveland, Victor
García of Dayton, as well as Angel Arroyo and
Antonio Barrios, both from Lorain.
The recognition is presented annual by the Ohio Commission on
Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA) to honor the accomplishments of
The Latino Military Service of Distinction Award also was
presented to Dr. Manuel Caro, 66, of Toledo, a former
college professor, administrator, essayist and poet who served
as a sergeant in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He is
the oldest boy of ten children, born and raised in the Old South
End. His mother was pregnant with him when his migrant
farmworker family moved from El Paso, Texas to Toledo.
retired director of the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety, who served
as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, also received the award. A
posthumous, fallen hero version of the award was also presented
to the family of Sgt. Louis Torres, a U.S. Army
OCHLA’s Director Lilleana Cavanaugh also recognized fallen
Infantry Soldier Spc. Angel López, 27, of Parma, Ohio,
who was killed in Afghanistan on Oct. 5.
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10/16/13 19:48:50 -0700.