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Toledo 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 major cities.


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 from.”


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 at.”


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 wanted it.”


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, Marilyn Zayas-Davis 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 Ohio Latinos.


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.


Henry Guzmán, 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 sergeant.


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.



award recipients

antonio barrios and lilly cavanaugh

caroline ramsey

lilly cavanaugh

josue vicente y richard herman

anthony simms howell

manuel caro y henry guzman

caroline ramsey y jason dominguez

rev. max rodas

donna alvarado

antonio barrios

benito lucio y hija

henry guzman y jason dominguez

karen labra

karen labra and dancers


maritza motino

manuel caro y jason dominguez

nancy mendez with max rodas

rep. dan ramos

mary santiago y antonio barrios

mary santiago y mike florez

miss ohio latina

antonio barrios, angel arroyo and mom

michael florez and speaker donna alvarado



Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/16/13 19:48:50 -0700.




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