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Museum Info

Hollywood Museum

1355 N. Caheunga Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 464 - 2727
SAT 10a - 4p

Harbor Museum

638 Beacon Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
(323) 464 - 2727
SAT 10a - 3p

Off-hour tours available
by special request.

LAFDHS Blog

Remembering Firefighter Brent Lovrien

Brent LovrienOn March 26, 2008, while on-scene at an incident in the Westchester area, City of Los Angeles firefighter Brent Lovrien was killed when an explosion rocked an electrical room. Lovrien, assigned to Task Force 95, was doing his job - protecting lives and property, when he made the ultimate sacrifice.

A year has passed, but the loss of firefighter Lovrien remains in our hearts and minds. For those firefighters who are on duty today, their thoughts are with Brent's family, friends, and loved ones. Every firefighter in Los Angeles trains as if their lives depend on it - because they do. Even though the city experiences far fewer structure fires and other fire-related incidents, each emergency call could signal the last response for any firefighter responding.

The Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society would like to invite you to visit our memorial plaza, where you may see firefighter Lovrien's name on our memorial wall, can experience our lovely plaza - and can reflect on the history of this fine department and those who served for the past 124 years.

An updated report on the loss of firefighter Lovrien can be read here.

Remembering LAPD Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner

The Los Angeles Police Department and indeed the City of Los Angeles is mourning the loss of Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner, who died suddenly this weekend. Chief Garner was known as a decisive, direct individual who spent every day of his career concerned for the citizens who live and work in the city of Angels. Chief Garner attended several of our events and we join in offering our condolences to the department and his family.

Los Angeles Times Journalist Sandy Banks has written a moving tribute to Chief Garner. You may read it by clicking here.

For additional information, please visit the LAPD website.

2009 and the LAFD Museum & Memorial

The volunteers and supporters of the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society wish everyone a healthy and happy New Year. The organization is very enthused about the coming year and we hope that you and your friends, family members, and co-workers find the opportunity to visit one of our museums.

As everyone knows, the current ecomony is a issue that affects everyone. As a museum, the importance of ongoing support from the public is critical to the organization's survival. We are actively working on a number of initiatives, and your support is important to our success.

The Fallen Firefighter Memorial
While primary construction of the memorial has been completed, there remain outstanding expenses that must be retired. In addition, the plaza requires ongoing maintenance and support. When you purchase a memorial paver, you're supporting the memorial and the plaza. Please help us keep the memory of every fallen LAFD firefighter alive. We were saddened to add names to the wall this year, but also feel pride that there is a place for people to visit and reflect, so that every name has meaning for every citizen of Los Angeles and our many visitors from outside the city.

Old Fireboat #2, the Ralph J. Scott
This is the oldest serving piece of apparatus in the history of the city, and perhaps the country. Fireboat #2 served Los Angeles in the Port of L.A. for 77 years. It is now on land, stationed behind FS112 and the current Boat 2 berth in San Pedro (across from the Harbor LAFD HS Museum). The "Scott" as she is affectionately called, is due to be housed in a fantastic structure being built and paid for by the Port of Los Angeles.

The fireboat itself requires rehabilitation that volunteers cannot accomplish on their own. As much as we love the boat, our efforts will merely slow the progress of decay and the effects of time. Therefore, we continue to seek support for the boat, so that we may have professional experts work with us to prepare the boat for her final assignment.

Restoration of Old Fire Station 27
The Hollywood museum is in need of maintenance and rennovation as well. Any old building requires love and attention, so that it remains a viable structure. We have managed to make certain that the museum is taken care of, but there are impending projects that require substantial investment to complete, including upgrading the electrical, plumbing, and security of the building.

When you become a member of the LAFD Historical Society, you are assisting us in our mission to preserve the history of the department, in part via the Hollywood museum - Old Fire Station 27. Please consider becoming a member if you are not - and if you are, please consider volunteering or otherwise finding a way to support our efforts.

Volunteers
We are always seeking new volunteers. This year, more than ever, we are eager to bring in new people, who have a love of the fire service and/or history in general. There are many interesting tasks for our volunteers, ranging from apparatus restoration to conducting tours or working in our gift shop.

Regardless of the support provided, we greatly appreciate every bit of assistance that is provided to our organization. We exist because of the support you provide. As we head into 2009, we would like to remind you that we have some of the most interesting artifacts to be found anywhere in the United States. We have knowledgeable retired firefighters who can share the history of the department with you. And we have one of the most remarkable memorials to be found anywhere - dedicated to those firefighters who gave their lives in service to the city.

Please make the LAFD Historical Society part of your 2009 vacation, tour, or support plans. This website provides information on membership, pavers, volunteering, and other opportunities. We look forward to seeing you soon.

2008 Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service

2008 Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service
The annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service was conducted on October 11, 2008 in front of Historic Fire Station 27 in Hollywood. This marked the first-even memorial service in the completed Fallen Firefighter Memorial Plaza and it was a beautiful, well-attended event.

Under a remarkable clear sky, with a breeze and the feeling of fall in the air, LA Firefighters, fallen firefighter family members, city leaders and the community came together to remember our fallen heroes. The LAFD Honor Guard opened the event with a moving entry into the Memorial Plaza. Captain Steven Owens (76-C), acted as Master of Ceremonies and welcomed speeches by Councilmember Dennis Zine, Councilmember Janice Hahn, Fire Commissioner Genethia Hudley-Hayes, Fire Chief Douglas Barry, and others. Singer Tim Davis delivered a memorable musical performance.

The highlight of the day was shared by the daughter of a fallen member of the Department. Jessica Reiner, whose father (Eric Reiner 81-B) was killed in the crash of Fire 3 ten years ago, read a letter she wrote to her father. Her rich voice, clear message and endearing words to a missing dad will be remembered by anyone in attendance for a long time. The Reiner family can be proud of Eric's memory, and the LAFD is proud of the commitment to excellent every member of the family demonstrates at each public event in which they participate.

Other family members, some who have not previously seen the Memorial Plaza were in attendance. Many went up to touch the Wall of Honor that lists the names of all 254 fallen members of the department (as of August 1, 2008). Of special note was the presence of the two new "Hollywood Stars" in front of the middle apparatus bay door of Historic Fire Station 27. Initially authorized by the late Johnny Grant, these stars memorialize the two firemen assigned to Station 27: Captain Michael Carter and Fireman James Hassan. Fireman Hassan's daughter was present at Saturday's event. And, although not noted in the official program, LAFD Historic Society board member Ted Aquaro is to be commended for his continual support of all fallen firefighter's families. They all look to him as their stanchion of support and link between their loved ones and the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Battalion Chief Dan McCarty played "taps" and all 255 names (one not yet added to the wall) of those who lost their lives while on-the-job were read aloud. Retired Assistant Chief Frank W. Borden spoke and as a fitting conclusion to the event, the LAFD Air Ops Division sent three helicopters (two Bell 412 models and a Bell 206) to fly over the gathering.

And while the event was moving, it was important to see the community and the fire department come together as they did. The celebration of these fallen firefighters lives was the cornerstone of the comments made by every speaker. Their stories and their commitment to the City of Los Angeles can now be memorialized forever - and we invite you to visit our Memorial Plaza at any time.

Living History at the LAFD Museum

LAFD Historical Society Volunteers
Part of the thrill of visiting Historic Fire Station 27 in Hollywood is the opportunity to interact with some pretty amazing people. While many museums have docents, not many can visit with you and explain things as if they were there - because they were!

Can you imagine touring through a museum and hearing what the dinosaurs were really like? Or what it was like to fight in the Revolutionary War? While we can't boast those credentials, we can offer up something pretty close: Most of our docents were on-the-job LA Firefighters and they are here to tell the tale.

The photo to the right highlights four of our longest-serving volunteers and docents. From the left, Captain Jim Finn (ret) served the LAFD for more than 40 years, retiring just this past month. Benny Holder, also a former Captain, has a wealth of knowledge about the history of the department, even from its earliest years. Bill Dahlquist, our former curator, was a Boat Pilot in the L.A. Harbor, and was lucky enough to serve on the longest-ever in-service piece of firefighting apparatus, Old Fireboat No. 2, the Ralph J. Scott. And finally, Don Dodd, a fireman his entire adult life, comes from a storied family. His great grandfather, Samuel Dodd, was one of the earliest heros of the LAFD, creating the LAFD Firefighting College, perhaps the first truly organized fire preventation, tactics and strategy education center in the country. Together, these four individuals served the LAFD for more years than it has been in existence.

And, there are other former firefighters with stories to tell. Retired Assistant Chief Frank W. Borden fought the Bel Air fire, was involved in a series of major incidents during the course of his career, and was the co-Founder of the Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) program. Today, there are literally thousands of CERT teams around the United States.

So, if you're interested in the history of fire in Los Angeles, there's no better place to come and learn than Historic Fire Station 27 in Hollywood or Old Fire Station 36 in the Harbor. We have guys who can tell you how dramatic the Sansinena fire and explosion was, how hot and smoky the L.A. Library fire was, what it was like to serve with Chief Don Anthony, in the Harbor, the Valley, Hollywood, or Skid Row. We have history on nearly any topic you can think of. We even have some horses for you to admire.

Living History at the LAFD Historical Society. We've got lots of it.

Greater Alarm Gala Draws Near

Greater Alarm Gala
The 4th Annual Greater Alarm Gala is less than a month away, and already, the anticipation is building. This year, there are so many things for us to consider when opening the Fallen Firefighter Memorial Plaza for this prestigious event. The LAFD lost a gallant firefighter, Brent Lovrien this year. Several other firefighters passed away, due to on-the-job-related illnesses. And, the Fallen Firefighter Memorial Plaza was completed this past August.

This year also marks some important changes. The event has grown up a bit, and we're eager to make certain everyone has the best time possible while in our company. We've added fun things to do - get your photo taken while sliding the fire pole in the station, or get photographed and have your image matted onto a fire engine. If you enjoy cigars, we'll have a talented cigar-roller there to work his magic - just for you.

As with years past, we're offering up a tremendous menu, all prepared by LA City Firefighters. And, we've added food service lines to provide faster service. Coffee and deserts are being brought to the table, and we'll keep you entertained with a variety of aerialists, fire dancers, videos, and much more.

So, please join us for a worthwhile cause and a fun evening. Forget the daily drama of life in Los Angeles and escape to Historic Fire Station 27 in Hollywood. You'll be glad you did.

Additional information is available at: www.greateralarmgala.org

Tilson, Task Forces, Trauma: We Remember Watts

Watts Riots
Forty years ago, the Watts community of Los Angeles erupted in violence and flames. It proved to be a dramatic and difficult assignment for the Los Angeles Fire Department, and before the city quieted down, a Los Angeles Firefighter was dead and a new system for fighting fires had been implemented - a system still in use today.

The violence was triggered by a simple and fairly common incident, the arrest of a local black citizen by California Highway Patrol officers. CHP officer Lee Minikus arrested 20-year old Marquette Fry for DUI on August 11, 1965. As the arrest was in progress, Fry's mother, coming from their home a few blocks away, began to verbally challenge the arrest. By the time Fry was booked, hundreds of angry Watts residents were in full riot mode, and the city's history was changed forever.

Watts Community Activist Tommy Jacuette expressed the mood in Watts in August of 1965, saying, "I knew the frustration, the hostility, and I knew the attitude of the police - and it was payback time, for the most part." As with most violent incidents, those not directly involved become the biggest victims.

When the riots began, Interim Chief Don Hibbard was vacationing. Deputy Chief Raymond M. Hill was acting Chief Engineer. It should be noted that the violence escalated over several days - and it was on August 13 that things got completely out of control. By 10PM on the 13th, dozens of fires were burning in LA.

As firefighters worked to bring the flames under control, they came under fire themselves. Pump 65 came under gunfire while extinguishing an automobile fire. An Engine 65 firefighter was injured and the rig severely damaged by rocks, asphalt bits, and thrown crowbars and other hard objects. Police attempted to protect firefighters, but they were often pulled in too many directions.

Chief Hill set up a command post at Fire Station 64, which was close to the fires and in an area where multiple LAFD companies could be staged for proper assignment to the quickly spreading series of fires. Hill formed these companies into "task forces" - each task force made up of a truck company and a minimum of two engine companies, all under the direction of a Battalion Chief. Used for certain brush fires and in European firefighting, the task force concept was unusual in US Firefighting. Chief Hill felt the task force would offer firefighters greater projection and would aid in assigning a strong strike force to fires where you could, as Hill said, "move in fast, knock the fire down in a hurry, pick up your lines and make yourself available to another fire."

There were more fires than the city had ever seen at one time before. Assignments were made in the field and companies moved from fire to fire, without returning to staging areas or quarters. So many buildings on 103rd Street were aflame that a local newscaster dubbed it, "charcoal alley."

Late into the evening of August 14, the city was slowing beginning to calm down, as more than 13,000 armed National Guard troops were arriving, but the worst was yet to come... A fire at the huge Shop-Rite Market brought a number of companies - and upon arrival the initial sizeup included three buildings fully involved. Police were needed elsewhere and firefighters dodged bricks and rocks as they worked to bring the fire under control. As the fire companies began to pick up their lines and prepare to move on to the next assignment, the concrete wall and marquee of the Shop-Right Market collapsed, trapping firefighters Warren E. Tilson and Robert Laxogue.

In the midst of a riot, without police protection, and in the dead of night, a rapid rescue began - but was further complicated due to the nature of the material - concrete. Fearing further damage to the trapped firefighters if jackhammers were used, firefighters Malen W. Jacobs of Truck 28 and Frank J. Harrison of Truck 3 edged their way under the concrete and moved, an inch at a time, towards their comrades. Laxogue was rescued, suffering from broken ribs. Tilson was dead, killed by the collapsing wall. Jacobs and Harrison were awarded medals of Bravery. The National Guard, operating under orders of "shoot to kill," quelled the nightmare.

Today, the concept initiated in the riots by Chief Hill lives on. The task force concept has proven highly effective and has evolved, with both heavy task forces and light forces (a truck and a single engine under command of a task force commander) are used throughout the city, with great effect. Firefighter Tilson's name will be added to the new Fallen Firefighter Memorial when it is introduced later in 2005.

For Watts, the results are more mixed. Forty years later, many area residents still remember those hot August nights. One resident, Alice Harris, known to her friends as "sweet Alice" says not much has changed. "Everybody is tense - no jobs, zero tolerance in the housing projects and people are scared of the police," she says. For the LAFD, an ongoing commitment to Watts continues, with constant rescue ambulance support, new fire stations, and a dedication to the community, regardless of time, day, or temperature.


Opening of FS 43

If you haven't been to the grand opening of a new fire station, it's a terrific way to start the day. On August 16, 2008, the Los Angeles Fire Department will celebrate the opening of its latest construction project: The New Fire Station 43.

Here's the scoop:

Saturday, August 16, 2008
10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Fire Station 43
3690 Motor Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90034

West Los Angeles is an active part of the Southern California Landscape and this Fire Station will be busy as well. With a combination of homes, apartments, and commercial businesses, the mix of emergency runs will keep these firefighters on the go.

The LAFD Historical Society will be a part of the festivities - we'll be bringing our mobile gift shop to the event. If you're interested in some authentic LAFD wearables, hats, shirts, and patches... or, if you're ready to teach your kids about fire safety, we've got books and DVDs you'll enjoy. Best of all, we've got models of helicopters, fire engines, and much more. So, don't miss out on the fun.

Join us and have some fun, eat some cake, and pick up a model fire engine for the kids. See you there!

Proud of Pinel

December typically signals the arrival of winter over fall, with holiday decorations, office parties, and a general feeling of good cheer. Even in Los Angeles, the weather changes, even if only slightly, and the evenings are cooler; the days shorter.

It was cool and quiet on December 4, 1984 as Los Angeles Police Officers Joe Ransfer and Robert Lopez patrolled in their car the area surrounding Los Angeles International Airport. As they drove past the southern runways at about 4:50AM, they were stunned to see flames punching through the roof of The Proud Bird restaurant. A radio call was made and OCD issued a structure fire assignment at 4:54AM (TF 95, TF5, E80, BC4).

First in units realized they had a working fire and the initial "size-up" resulted in additional units being called. Within minutes 23 companies and Deputy Chief Don Anthony were either on scene or en route, including Engine 54.

The fire was stubborn, having actually been started by thieves just after midnight - it had a nearly five hour head-start and had pushed its way from the main floor of the restaurant into the huge 130 by 175 foot attic of the facility. The unique construction of the building also made the attack difficult. The roof contained a maze of construction beams, supports and other elements that diluted the traditional venting operations of firefighters on the roof.

As an interior attack continued, the crew of Engine 54, including Captain Jim N. DiGrado, Firefighters Walter T. Barnett and Benjamin Pinel were working an inch-and-a-half line through the ballroom. Engine 66 was engaged in a similar effort. Suddenly, without warning, a tremendous flashover occurred, pushing firefighters back due to the extreme heat and fire. Engine 66 and 54 retreated to the street, only to discover that Firefighter Pinel was missing.

Benjamin Pinel

Michael and Benjamin (Right) Pinel At Graduation 1983

Firefighters re-entered the building in search of Pinel, including Firefighter Johnny Garcia of Truck 64. Garcia followed the hoseline from 54s to the nozzle, but couldn't find Pinel. As he peered though the dark, murky smoke, he heard the low-air warning from Pinel's breathing apparatus, plus the personal alarm device (PAL) on Pinel's turnout coat.

Garcia was forced to abandon the building for a fresh air bottle, but immediately returned to continue his search. Now, only the tone from Pinel's PAL device could be heard, but Pinel himself was not to be found. As his air ran low, Garcia, now exhausted, exited the building for a third air bottle and a third attempt to find the missing firefighter.

As Garcia and others searched, the fire in the attic continued to escalate. Firefighting and search and rescue operations were ongoing and after awhile, Pinel was found, about 75 feet from the nozzle of his line. He had apparently attempted to exit in a wrong direction and became disoriented. He did not survive and heat and smoke in the ballroom.

Benjamin Pinel left a wife and six-month old daughter behind, and a brother who was also a firefighter, Michael, then stationed at Task Force 66. Garcia was awarded the medal of valor for his efforts. Arson investigators later arrested Jose Jesus Davilla related to the arson fire at the restaurant, but he was not convicted, due to a lack of hard evidence. He was deported to Mexico, having been in the US illegally.

Today, 21 years later. all Los Angeles firefighters remember Pinel, Garcia, and the Proud Bird. The name of Pinel is inscribed on the wall of the new Firefighter Memorial in Hollywood, just outside Old Fire Station 27. If you ask anyone who hears about this story, they're likely to tell you Pinel was a hero. If you ask a firefighter, they're more likely to say, "it's just another part of the job."

A bit of video history

The Los Angeles Fire Department has a photo/video unit and in days past, had a "film unit" to record major incidents, press events, and training for department use. On occasion, either working internally or with outside production companies, promotional or documentary videos would be produced.

In the time period of the late 1940s through the late 1950s, a documentary film, titled, Your Fire Department, was produced. There is little available information on this film, but it is a wonderful overview of the LAFD during this time period. The Historical Society is doing some research regarding this film - and welcomes any input or commentary about it.

Screen Grab of 1948 Film
This film in interesting for a number of reasons, including the use of color in an era when black and white was most commonly used. Fire Station 27 (now the home of the LAFD museum in Hollywood), is featured in multiple places and apparatus no longer housed there are shown (utility company, salvage company, etc.). The Gorter Water Tower, now on display in the Hollywood museum is shown in action, as are a variety of interesting apparatus that if found today, would be extremely valuable. LAFD Fire Boats are painted in wartime gull-gray, another interesting hint regarding the time of production. Active Firefighters will get a kick out of the techniques used "back in the day" and it's clear that times have changed!

There have been many films highlighting the LAFD during its history. Terry Sanders produced "The Story of a Fireman" in 1962 and today, a new documentary on the history of the department is in production, with the support of the Historical Society.

The video posted on Google appears to have been uploaded from Europe, and attempts to contact the publisher have not been met with a response. If you have information regarding Your Fire Department, we'd love to hear from you. NOTE: Only Part II is available via the link above. You can see the entire video at the LAFD Museum in Hollywood.

Special thanks to Captain I (9-B) Tim Werle for discovering this video.

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