October is a very big and important month for the Historical Society, LAFD members active and retired, their families and friends and all those who appreciate, remember and pay tribute to our Fallen Firefighters. Our Memorial is the Department’s first Memorial to its Fallen Firefighters in its 131-year history. The LAFD Annual Memorial Ceremony to its Fallen Firefighters will take place on Saturday, October 14th this year. It will be a day for all those in attendance to remember those members of our department who gave their lives in the service to the people of Los Angeles. There are 266 names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice engraved into the granite wall on the monument with more of our line of duty deceased members to be added. We will be there for their families and friends in comfort and support because our members are part of one big extended family there to help each other when the time arises.
The stories of two of the members from Old Fire Station 27 who died while battling fires will be told this month in their memory. The information is from our “LAFD Memorial Book.”
Captain Michael Carter was a decorated U.S. Army veteran from World War I when he joined the LAFD in 1925. Captain Carter was assigned to Engine Company 27 on June 9, 1950, when they responded to a structure fire at the Alco Research Corporation at 1107 No. El Centro Ave. It was a recording company in Hollywood. He collapsed while he was directing his company during firefighting operations and died from cardiac arrest. He was 55 years old. Rescue Unit 27 was called and members worked over him for some time without avail.
Captain Carter was described by his superiors as “one of the finest officers in the department.” He was survived by his wife Sue, two daughters, Mary Kearns and Theresa Koenig, and two sons, Thomas and John. He also had five brothers. His family has visited new Fire Station 27 and our Museum & Memorial for a special plaque presentation to commemorate Captain Carter.
Fireman James (Jimmy) Hassan, assigned to Engine Company 27 “A,” died from the collapse of a roof at a fire in the County at 7518 Santa Monica Blvd. on December 11, 1958. Jimmy was the acting captain that night. He was with his engine company inside the building when the roof collapsed, pinning him under the burning debris. The collapse also trapped fireman Gerry Baird and injured other firefighters. By the time the firemen could remove the heavy beams from Jimmy he had died. Fireman Frank Manwarren, who was a regular at the Museum, said that it was a very difficult time for all those assigned to 27’s. He said that Jimmy was a fun loving great guy and well-liked by all. Jimmy had 10 years on the Department, was 33 years old, a native of Los Angeles and a U.S. Navy veteran from World War II. He was remembered in a touching poem written by his friend, Deputy Chief Charles Bahme.
Deputy Chief Chuck Bahme wrote the following poem about his close friend Jim. This is an excerpt from “My Friend Jim.”
“Tireless, and always thoughtful he often volunteered to work for other members, and to be acting captain. And so it was, that fatal night, responding to his last alarm as Engine Company Acting Captain, Engine Company 27, he was sent outside the city. When Jim arrived upon the scene, no county crews were there. He helped his men lay hose lines to the blazing carpet warehouse. Into the smoke, choking furnace, with heat intense, and rafters burning, Jim’s nozzle spewed its hissing spray on flaming tongues around him. Unquenched by spray or scalding steam, the snakes of fire hissed louder, consuming floor joists overhead, supporting mezzanine. Heavy carpets soaked with water warped the wooden timbers, with creaky, cracking, crunching noise, the balcony crashed under. Jim yelled “Get out!”- to men behind, shutting down his nozzle, they dropped the hose and scurried back, escaping just in time. But not Jim! Vulnerable to bashing beam- No way could he survive. As his broken helmet told it all – Dead – at thirty five.
I wasn’t there, but I was called, and of this fact I’m certain, Jim bravely fought the final fire ‘til Fate brought down the curtain. Devastated and despairing, his death was such a blow, I dreaded going to his home to let his family know. Mournful messenger of sorrow, I slowly drove to see a stunned grieving wife and child, who’d, heard it on TV. (News reporters, I hear tell, had seen Jim’s name spelled out upon his crushed and broken helmet, retrieved from where it fell) A roaring, flood broke loose within my bursting heart. Blending with their flowing tears, I let my rivers start. In the frequency hereafter- in this life’s afterglow-I’ll bet Jim is teasing devils, helping Peter run the show! For in this new dimension, Jim’s not fighting fire, but making dates with angels, and signing in the choir.”
Frank’s note: My father Stanley, who was a Captain at 27’s, worked with Jimmy and spoke highly of him. All the members at 27’s appreciated his humor and capabilities. Fortunately for my father, he was off duty the day of the incident. At the time of his death, Fireman Hassan was survived by his wife Elizabeth and daughter Lyn who was seven years old at the time. Lyn and the family have been strong supporters of the Memorial and have attended many of the LAFD Memorial Ceremonies.
Upon the death of Fireman Ercil G. Morse of Truck 5 at an incident on April 7, 1924, LAFD Chief Engineer Ralph J. Scott wrote the following letter to his mother:
“There are times when words fail to convey the depths of brotherly feeling, when in this dangerous service of ours, some man is called upon to pay the extreme penalty which this work exacts. There is not a man in the department whose heart does not go out in sympathy to those left behind, for not one of us knows that the next alarm of fire may be the last call for him.”
Submitted by Frank Borden