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‘Just a good person’: Retired firefighter dies after ALS battle

Updated January 16, 2023 - 4:38 pm

He loved climbing, and when faced with the biggest obstacle of his life, he kept going.

Capt. Dennis Snider, a Clark County firefighter for three decades, died on Jan. 1 after a seven-year battle with ALS. He was 62.

“His response was, ‘Let’s do it, let’s go and do everything we possibly we can,’ ” said Snider’s wife, Julie, of how her late husband responded to ultimately being diagnosed with ALS after several years of suffering from a neurodegenerative disorder that doctors initially couldn’t pin down.

After his diagnosis, Dennis Snider and his family kept living life to the fullest, Julie Snider said. They went to Italy and spent five weeks pushing a wheelchair-bound Snider all over the country. They fished, camped, went on boating trips and socialized.

‘An inspiration and a fighter’

On Saturday, a celebration of life will be held South Point’s Grand Ballroom B. The 5:30 p.m. service, which is open to the public, will include an honor guard presentation as well as remembrances from fire officials including Clark County Fire Department Chief John Steinbeck, who called Snider an “amazing officer for our department.

“He was extremely dedicated, and those who worked with him did so with the confidence that Captain Snider was prepared to handle and lead through any emergency,” Steinbeck said in an email.

“Dennis was extremely personable and genuinely cared about the people he served and served with,” Steinbeck added. “He has a lasting legacy in our department and will be missed.”

Greg Cassell, the now-retired former chief, was a close friend. He said Thursday that Dennis Snider was “so positive, unbelievably positive, at the worst times of life” and that he was amazed by how his friend faced his disease.

“I’m honored to have known him through his times on the job and the times of illness, because he was just an inspiration and a fighter,” Cassell said.

Dennis Snider’s grown children Tenaya Sanchez, 30, and Dakota Snider, 28, as well as Julie Snider, who was married to her husband for just under 32 years, also will speak.

A video of his career will be shown. And what a career it was, his wife noted.

After being hired in 1980 when he was 18, he crammed a lot of professional accomplishments into his tenure with the Clark County Fire Department before retiring in 2010.

Among the highlights, he was a founding member of Nevada Task Force One, one of almost 30 urban search and rescue teams established under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA.

With the Nevada team, he went to New York City after Sept. 11, 2001, spending 10 days there as part of the recovery effort.

“It was an honor that they went, but they were disappointed because they couldn’t save anybody,” Julie said.

The team also spent 17 days in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 where they “literally, actually pulled people out of the attics,” Julie said.

‘Just a good person’

Dennis Snider helped found Clark County’s Heavy Rescue program, which specializes in rescuing people at high altitudes, underneath collapsed structures and in other high-risk situations, according to a 2018 Review-Journal story of a fundraiser to help the Snider family pay for the expensive blood tests needed to diagnose his ailment, which had forced him into early retirement.

When he was ultimately diagnosed with ALS, it made sense because multiple other people in his family have also suffered from the same form of ALS, Julie Snider said, including his father, Byron “Butch” Snider, who also was a Clark County firefighter. “Butch” Snider joined the department in 1958 and rose to the position of battalion chief.

But outside of work, Dennis Snider was “really an all-around great guy,” Julie said. He loved climbing. When he was 16, he would disappear into Red Rock Canyon for days at a time. He had a dry, witty sense of humor. He was laidback but not lazy. He was capable and loyal, and didn’t like working overtime like many other firefighters because he preferred to be with his family at their home in Kingman, Arizona, where Julie still lives.

“He was just a good person,” Cassell said. “He never crossed anybody’s lines. He was always honest and hardworking. He worked really hard. He loved the job.”

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter.

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