'He always had a smile on his face:' Valley says final goodbye to Kings Co. firefighter

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fire engines escorted the body of Keith Hernandez more than 200 miles.

Standing at attention, first responders and community members along the procession route said their final goodbyes.

"We had firefighters on overpasses from so many different cities I can't name them," Kings County Fire Chief Clay Smith says it's not just a testament to the comradery of first responders, but a testament to Keith himself

"It's about the person, the firefighter, the guy that loves the job, and that's exactly what Keith did he loved his job," Chief Smith said.

Support Hernandez felt even while he was alive.

In an interview, when Keith was first diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, he praised fellow first responders.

In addition to a GoFundMe and several fundraisers, they helped with meals, yard work, and house maintenance so Keith could focus on his health and family.

Hernandez had wanted to be a firefighter since the age of 15. He got his start with the city of Clovis' fire explorer program.

After joining CalFire as a seasonal firefighter, he joined Kings County Fire in 2013.

"He was a prankster he always had a smile on his face, loved to come to work," Chief Smith said.

The husband and father of two may have lost his battle, but his legacy of protecting others lives on.

"Kings County Fire is currently looking into a system during our annual check-ups to do a pre-cancer screening," Chief Smith said.

Over the next 30 days, flags throughout the state will be lowered to half staff to honor Hernandez.
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