LAFD History – In Memory of LAFD Captain I Joseph C. Dupee

September 30, 2018

Engine Company 57 A Platoon
Appointed April 12, 1981, Died March 8, 1998 Trapped in building
Pacific Bird and Supply Company. 5972 Western Avenue

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Captain Dupee. I have always maintained the utmost respect for the firefighters of our nation and to lose one in the line of duty is a tragedy that touches us all. My thoughts and prayers are with Joseph’s family and friends as they grieve the loss of a genuine hero.

George Bush
President of the United States

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On March 8, 1998, Captain I Joseph C. Dupee was killed in the line of duty at a major emergency structure fire at 5972 S. Western Avenue. Captain Dupee was assigned to Engine 57, which was involved in interior firefighting operations at the time of his death. The structure was 110 feet long and 59 feet wide with a conventional trussed arch roof. The business manufactured pet food products and the building was not sprinklered.

A first alarm assignment consisting of Task Force 66, Rescue 866, Engine 57, Engine 46, Light Force 33, Engine 34, and Battalion 13 (32 members) was dispatched to a reported structure fire at approximately 02:20 hours. Engine 33 added themselves to the assignment. Both Task Force 66 and Task Force 33 responded with ten members.
Task Force 66 was first on scene at approximately 02:22 hours and reported “…light smoke showing from a one-story commercial building…”. A ventilation team from Truck 66 went to the roof via a 35-foot extension ladder.

Forcible entry was initiated by the inside member of Truck 66 through the front door of the building. Forcible entry required approximately 4 to 7 minutes to force open the security door and metal front door of the building.

While companies waited for the front door to be forced open, fire conditions changed dramatically on the roof. Truck 66’s ventilation team initially found moderate smoke coming from ventilators. As the ventilation team approached the center of the roof, they observed fire coming from the vents. The ventilation team opened an initial hole, but was driven back by heavy fire and heat. Noting the change in conditions, the I.C. requested two additional task forces at approximately 02:26 hours.

Engine 66, followed by Engine 57, and Engine 46, advanced handlines through the front door. Three members of Engine 33 quickly followed with 10-foot pike poles. Approximately fifteen feet inside the front door, companies encountered heavy smoke conditions with near zero visibility. Advancing the handlines was made difficult due to considerable storage inside the manufacturing area. There was considerable concern about the mezzanine, which extended 6 to 13 feet from the office area.

Engine 57 turned right once inside the manufacturing area and located a small amount of fire in the mezzanine area. However, they were unable to effectively reach the seat of the fire. Engine 66 and Engine 46 advanced their lines 30 to 40 feet inside the building but found no fire. Engine 57’s engineer stayed in the hall area and helped advance the hose line to his company. Conditions inside the building continued to deteriorate and once SCBA alarms began to activate, companies independently began to withdraw. This was approximately 10 to 12 minutes after the first company entered the structure.

Engine 33 found the use of 10-foot pike poles to be ineffective. This, combined with the deteriorating conditions, prompted the captain to order a retreat to the outside to obtain their own hose line. Due to zero visibility, they had to follow existing hose lines to find their way out. Once outside, they realized their hydrant member had become separated, and had not made it out. The hydrant person from Engine 33, who had become disoriented and in fear for his life, activated his emergency trigger. Engine 33’s captain obtained a handi-light form Engine 57. The captain, while low on air, re-entered the structure and found the missing member approximately fifteen feet inside the manufacture area. He led the member out to safety. The next to exit were the three members of Engine 46, then the three members of Engine 66, and finally two members form Engine 57. During this time, Captain Dupee became separated from his crew and remained inside the building. At approximately the same time, companies were ordered out of the structure and off the roof by the I.C.

Additional units were requested from OCD as the fire grew. At approximately 02:37 hours, the company designated for command post support was diverted to Rapid Intervention as they arrived on scene. At approximately 02:38 hours, the Division II Commander arrived on scene, without a Staff Assistant, and assumed command. During this incident the command post experienced some significant communications problems, both human and technical. Radio malfunction and limited Command Post staffing have been identified as factors in this incident. At approximately 02:47 hours, the on-call Deputy Department Commander arrived on scene.

As the fire continued to escalate, the command post and several companies on scene became convinced that a member form Engine 33 was missing.

This delayed the realization that Engine 57’s captain was also missing, which took several minutes to be resolved. Several members reported Captain Dupee communicated on the tactical channel. Captain Dupee did not activate the emergency trigger on his radio. A member from Engine 15 inadvertently activated his radio’s emergency trigger at approximately 2:42 hours.

At approximately 2:57 hours, the I.C. notified O.C.D. of a RED ALERT condition.
At approximately 2:58 hours, Captain Dupee was found by the Rapid Intervention Company with his PAL devise sounding. The Rapid Intervention Company removed Captain Dupee through the rear of the building. Medical treatment including C.P.R. was initiated and then transport by RA 66 to Daniel Freeman Hospital. Captain Dupee was pronounced dead at the hospital.

LAFD Report March 13, 1998

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Recalling a Hero Who Gave His Life for L.A.
By Jon McDuffie

We provide a faceless, nameless service to a community that rarely knows how much they need us. We are a group of thousands, each with our own personality, family, and troubles. A band of anonymous “heroes” who subordinates ego and self-interest to serve a populace who only knows that we will be there when they call. We get paid for what we are able to do and the occasions when we are called to do it.

This week, one of us got a name, a face, a rank, a family…a life beyond the badge. His life now recognized, but only because it was sacrificed. He gave his life defending the property of a person he did not know, in a city that did not know him. His name was Joseph Dupee. I knew him before you, and I will remember him long after his name wanes in your short-term memory.

Ten mornings a month, Joe rose before the sun, kissed his sleeping family goodbye, and made the drive to his second home. He exercised; he trained himself and his crew. He laughed; he sulked; he handled tedious projects; he read his bible and spoke about it with others. He shared his opinions at the kitchen table. His brothers and sisters drank thousands of cups of coffee with him, all the while attempting to solve the problems of the world.

And then he would wait. And sometimes they worked harder than you could imagine.

Some of his workdays were spent waiting. Some days his city did not need him as much as other days, but he still waited. If you need Joe for small things–a broken water pipe, a child locked in a car, a pot of beans that cooked just a bit too long–he responded to your call.

Other times you needed him for life threatening emergencies–to rescue you from natural and man-made disasters, from fire, from accidents, from illness, from yourselves–he responded to your call.

You never doubted that Joe would be there for you. You never knew his name and he never asked you to justify your need. He served you because he wanted to help and he loved to help and he loved to help you. You could have stopped giving him pay raises, repairing his station, hiring more firefighters, and he would still be waiting to answer your call.

Joe loved his family, his God, and his country. He was an opinionated prankster who loved to talk, could not cook, and drove too fast behind the wheel of a fire engine. He was a good fire ground officer who worked aggressively at incidents and diligently at his post. He was on my platoon for three years; he will be my brother always. But you did not know him then. You only know him now.

Choose to think of him as a hero in death, and I tell you that he was a hero in life. Use Joe’s memory for sadness and I will use it to comfort his family and my brothers and sisters that must continue to wait. Continue pouring out sympathy until it becomes a faint trickle, and I will still be waiting for the next call.

I provide a faceless, nameless service to a community that rarely knows how much they need me. If I am called from a sound sleep to sacrifice my life attempting to save the life or property of someone I do not know, I will do it without regret.

Joe did it. Why wouldn’t I?

Jon McDuffie is a Los Angeles firefighter

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