Many thanks to Keith Onishi…
Keith Onishi, the man who never slows down, has finally decided that it’s time catch his breath and just maybe slow down a little bit… After spending 30 plus years on the job in the SFFD he has basically spent all of his off-duty time to support many Department organizations, especially the Asian Firefighters Association and the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation. Keith was a founding concerned members of the group we put together that became SFFCPF in 2007. As the Vice President of our Foundation, he has been instrumental in organizing all of our cancer screenings. It’s hard for me to express just how valuable Keith has been… his favorite line to me whenever we spoke was, “What do you want me to do?” No task was too small or too large for him to take on.
A little history about Keith… he entered the Department in 1992 and spent his probationary time at Sta. 3 then Sta.12. He came close to losing his life in March 1995 at the infamous Everson St. Fire, a fire that took the life of Lt. Lou Mambretti and basically crippled firefighter Melanie Stapper, ending her career. Lt Mambretti, F.F. Stapper and F.F. Onishi were all trapped in a garage with 80 mile an hour winds whipping up Glen Canyon turning the structure fire into an internal blow torch… Keith suffered severe 3rd degree burns on his hands as well as other parts of his body and major burns to his lungs… Keith had to go through many painful surgeries and a long recovery but he came back to work. Not only did he come back to work he put in for a spot on Engine 1, one of the busiest engine companies in the United States and has remained at Sta.1 ever since. He could have picked a nice quiet company to spend the rest of his career but that is not Keith.
Our Foundation, in fact this Department, has been very fortunate to have this man. I wish him the best in life because that is exactly what he deserves. When he told me that it was time to move on, I had to smile because he followed that with, “I’ll be around, let me know if you need anything.” With a tear in my eye, I say “so long” but not “good bye”… God bless you, Brother.