Master of Disasters & Father of CERT
Celebration of Life – by Raquel M. Borden
On July 10, 2021, family, colleagues, and friends gathered at the LAFD Historical Society Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial Plaza to celebrate the life of Frank W. Borden, Retired Assistant Chief (1959-1996) and Director of the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society (LAFDHS). Volunteerism was in the air that day with the wide presence of CERT volunteers, LAFDHS volunteers, cadets/explorers from LA City and LA County Fire Departments, chaplains, LA Firemen’s Relief Association, SERTOMA members, and the President of the Board of Library Commissioners Bích Ngọc Cao, who is CERT-trained.
Assistant Chief Frank W. Borden was known as the “Master of Disasters” and “The Father of CERT.” His legacy of service goes on through the many programs that are now widespread such as the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program, the Incident Command System (ICS), Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) and FEMA’s National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Response System; and Firefighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies (FIRESCOPE). His vision and innovations in the fire service reached locally, nationally, and worldwide.
The speakers touched on every aspect of his life, personality, and his “I can do anything attitude.” Deputy Chief Armando Hogan, Battalion Chief Stacy Gerlich, and Ret. Firefighter/Paramedic Phil Wiereter spoke about how the CERT Program was developed, and Ret. Captain Ernesto Ojeda spoke about how the USAR program started in the LAFD under the leadership of Chief Borden. Ret. Fire Chief William R. Bamattre and his wife Liz spoke about Frank’s dedication to the LAFD Historical Society, which he helped establish in 1996. Ret. Captain Jim Finn, President of the LAFDHS, stated that Frank as a Director was able to manage two fire museums – Old F.S. 27 in Hollywood and Old F.S. 36 in San Pedro City Hall, and oversee the restoration of the historical Ralph J. Scott Fire Boat 2. Bob Lee, Frank’s business partner, spoke about their successful business in emergency management.
Chief Borden’s daughters Janice and Karen, sons Michael and Frank, Michael’s wife Mariela, and granddaughters Olivia and Emma were among the attendees. Michael spoke about what it was like growing up in the Fire Department family and about his last conversations with his dad. Father Chris Van Liefde and Chaplains George Negrete and Rick Godinez spoke about Frank’s faith.
When I spoke, I shared that Frank had been part of the LAFD family since he was three years old, when his father, Stanley Borden, joined the LAFD in 1941; and that in 1951, Frank’s mother, Erika, had lost her life in a house fire. What I did not mention is that Frank and his father, Stanley Borden, became the first father and son to have the rank of Battalion Chief at the same time. He not only reached his father’s rank but was also his dad’s commanding officer when Frank became an Assistant Chief.
When Chief Borden retired in 1996, he was in charge of the Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center (FHMTC) and the first to occupy that facility, which at the time wasn’t being maintained by the federal government because they weren’t using it anymore or by the city because it didn’t own it yet. Being resourceful, Frank furnished the facility with office furniture from salvage and used alternative methods for landscaping maintenance. Upon retirement, Chief Borden worked with the LAFDHS committee to acquire Old Fire Station 27 to be used as a museum and memorial site for the LAFD, and he shared his passion for LAFD history through Grapevine articles and museum tours.
I had a lot to say because life with Frank was very interesting and full of surprises, but when I was getting to the part of what he meant to me, my legs felt weak and my heart started racing, filling my chest with emotion, so I decided to talk about what the LAFDHS volunteers had accomplished and asked those in attendance to show up to volunteer for at least one day a year, because this is what Frank would have done if he was the one with the mic.
Frank and I were married for over 20 years. He was my husband and best friend, and the most constant person I have had in my life. Now, I realize how meaningful it is to have the security of someone being there for me under all circumstances. I feel so blessed to have been married to someone who was so creative, adventurous, and loving.
On April 9, 2021, Frank passed away peacefully in his sleep at home. On May 7, we had a private funeral at Green Hills Memorial Park. On May 4, the LA County Board of Supervisors adjourned its meeting in his memory and for his contributions to the country; and on May 6, 2021, the Board of Harbor Commissioners opened its meeting with a tribute to Frank for his contributions to San Pedro and the fire service; lastly, on May 14, Deputy Chief Armando Hogan spoke at a FEMA Zoom Conference about Frank and the creation of CERT. The celebration of life was the conclusion of acknowledging the man who always gave the best of himself and always did it with a smile.
I am so grateful to everyone who has reached out from far and near, to check on us, to comfort us and to help or sent donations to LAFDHS or LAFRA. Special thanks to LAFDHS volunteers, Ret. Fire Chief William R. Bamattre and Mrs. Liz Bamattre, John A. Keys (Bagpiper); Chaplains Rick Godinez, George Negrete, and Danny Leon; Msgr. Chris Van Liefde; Ret. Captain Jim Dolan and Ret. Battalion Chief Stephen Ruda from the Relief Association; Deputy Chief Graham Everett, Deputy Chief Armando Hogan; Rachel Granados, Theresa Sardisco, June Andrade, Amanda Boxley, Irene Arribillaga; Christy Adair, LAFD CERT Valley Bureau Coordinator; and Rosemary Vivero, Community Services Representative from LA County Fire Department. Thank you all for your kindness and selfless giving of your time.
The Borden Family