SANTA CRUZ -- A 47-year-old Cal Fire battalion chief who died Saturday night died of natural causes, Cal Fire said Monday.

Battalion Chief Rob Van Wormer was in a restaurant in Santa Cruz with a colleague when he lost consciousness, spokeswoman Angela Bernheisel said.

He was pronounced dead about 8 p.m. at Dominican Hospital. Services have not been announced.

An autopsy was performed Monday and Van Wormer's body was transported to a mortuary in Santa Clara County, Bernheisel said.

Van Wormer headed fire prevention efforts for Cal Fire's Santa Clara Unit and had been working on an investigation in Santa Cruz County, she said.

He lived in Jamestown and had worked for Cal Fire for 24 years.

Sunday, Bernheisel said she had received numerous calls from colleagues who were stunned and saddened by his death. Van Wormer had specialized law enforcement and aircraft operations training and was well-liked, she said.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement Monday regarding Van Wormer's death, saying he and his wife "extend our deepest condolences to Rob's family, friends and everyone at Cal Fire during this difficult time."

In honor of Van Wormer, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff, Brown stated.

Van Wormer is survived by his parents, Sharon and Ken Van Wormer of Alpine; his wife, Jennifer Van Wormer; sons Austin and Dalton; a brother, Kirk Van Wormer of Petaluma, and a sister, Debbie Van Wormer of Alpine.


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Kirk Van Wormer is a battalion chief in Cal Fire's Sonoma Lake/Napa unit.

Rob Van Wormer's past assignments included serving as a captain at the Alma Helitack Fire Station off Highway 17 near Los Gatos and in aircraft operations for Cal Fire's statewide incident command team.

Follow Sentinel reporter Cathy Kelly on Twitter at Twitter.com/cathykelly9