GLENDALE — Fire Engineer Sean Coogan, 47, who was credited with helping save fellow firefighters during the Calabasas-Malibu blaze of 1996, died this week of a heart attack, Glendale Fire Department officials said.
Coogan, a 24-year department veteran, was behind the wheel of the fire engine trapped in a firestorm while protecting homes in Corral Canyon on Oct. 22, 1996. The blaze critically injured Firefighter William Jensen, who suffered second- and third-degree burns to more than 70% of his body.
"Sean has been one of my best friends on and off the job for the whole 24 years he was in the department," said Jensen, who spent more than three months in the hospital after nearly dying in the fire. "If he hadn't stayed at his post and kept pumping the water to us, we wouldn't have been able to get out."
An outdoorsman and avid mountain biker, Coogan was believed to be in good health, and his death Wednesday came as a shock, Glendale Battalion Chief Steve Howard said.
"His contributions to the department were tremendous," Howard said. Coogan, who also served as an arson investigator with the department, was honored last year with the Fire Chief's Commendation for "heroic actions and commitment to duty" during the Calabasas-Malibu fire.
Coogan was found by his wife, Linda, at their Rancho Cucamonga home after she had returned from her job as a dispatcher with the Glendale Fire Department. His wife and paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive him. The couple met at work and married two years ago, Howard said.
Fire Capt. Steve Gilmer said Coogan was an accomplished mandolin player who played in a bluegrass band. Coogan rarely spoke about the Calabasas fire, he said.
"It was a very emotional thing for him," Gilmer said. "He was very upset that the guys got hurt."
Visitation will be held at Woods Glendale Mortuary at 511 S. Central Ave. on Wednesday from noon to 9 p.m. The funeral is scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. at Glendale Presbyterian Church, 125 S. Louise Ave.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to a trust for Coogan's 11-year old daughter, Jenna, in care of the Glendale Fire Department.