LAFRA Annual Open House Party

November 30, 2017

Except for the guy who went to 7470 South Figueroa Street, everyone had a terrific time at the Relief Association’s annual open house event. And there was a lot to celebrate this year: camaraderie with good friends, great food and drink, two (yes two!) dedicated honorees, and the debut of the 2017 Yearbook – all coming together in our home and headquarters at 7470 North Figueroa Street.

Cornucopia Caterers was responsible for the spread: hand-carved prime rib, pulled pork and Angus beef sliders, buttermilk fried chicken, and garlic shrimp topped the list of entrees. Desserts included chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate fudge brownies and assorted cookies, which paired beautifully with what they were pouring at the two (yes two!) host bars – “The County Guy Special” (gin & tonic) and “Billy Beer” (a selection of brews).

Our honorees this year were two Lane Kemper proteges: Bill Bringas and Larry Hoerner. The pair were recognized for their decades of volunteer work on behalf of your Relief Association, and the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund. They both strongly agreed that Lane was the impetus for their involvement.

Advance copies of the 2017 Yearbook were available for guest perusal. From the smiles and accolades on the lips of those examining the new book, it looks to be a winner. Look for it in your mailboxes before the December holidays.

LAFRA Event Coordinator Juliet Brandolino laid out a brilliant plan for the day and was ably assisted by volunteers Lydia Andrews (donning the fashionable pumpkin pie hat), Valerie Lawrence, aspiring firefighter Marshall Stevens, and sisters Virginia Newcomb and Anne Munsell. Jerrod Webster, owner of “Photos and Fountains” provided the entertainment with his wild and crazy photo booth. Sam Brown of “Sam Brown Shields” created the cool customized leather helmets presented to Larry & Bill. LAFD Fire Apparel set up shop for early holiday shopping. And longtime LAFD photographer David Blaire had scores of his photo albums available so everyone could be reminded of what they looked like in the “old” days.

Of course the LAFD Fire Hogs were all present and accounted for again this year. With the help of the fire chief, they presented a giant check for $25,000 to the WODFF. This was followed by the presentations to the honorees by LAFRA President Bob Steinbacher.

By Dave Wagner
Photos by David Blaire, Lloyd Payne, and Deborah Lew

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Billy Bringas

We’ve all heard the story of how the original fire department in Los Angeles was created by a gang of ruffians at Buffum’s Saloon. But did you know that the idea for your Relief Associations “Lane Kemper Classic Softball Tournament” was conceived in a gentlemen’s club in Las Vegas?

The Department had 86’d the “Bats and Beer” tournament – not enough bats and too much beer – and Lane Kemper was looking for a safe way to resurrect the event. While the Dropzone softball team was enjoying a night out in Vegas during a tournament there, Lane broached the idea of Billy being in charge of a new and improved softball round-robin.

Not much happened with that idea until Lane passed away. Then, wishing he had started sooner, Bill gathered a group of the same guys that Lane had used – Art Perez, Mike Mejia and Steve Romas – and with input from John Lawrence, the Lane Kemper Softball Classic was born.

Instead of hot dogs this time around, they had Bob Milhauser step up the day’s menu with his tri-tip. Later, Mark Curry and crew took over with their famous BBQ extravaganza. Bill had Valerie Lawrence take over the raffle and it wasn’t long before the event became a major WODFF fundraiser. Today there are usually more stations fielding teams than fields to play on.

Bill Bringas joined the LAFD on April 16, 1987. He promoted to engineer in 1993 and plans to retired next year. Bill says he never worked with Lane Kemper, he met him playing softball and enjoyed a lot of the things that Lane liked to do. But Lane always left his mark, and Bill Bringas and LAFD members are the better for it.

Bill has been part of Steve Romas’ Hope for Firefighter muster crew for most of twenty years. He’s been a softball and bowling organizer for Vegas games and the Firemen’s Olympics. And having majored in water polo at Long Beach State, Bill put together a firefighter team and played against club teams in summer tournaments.

Bringas originated the Over the Line tournament eight years ago, and recently handed it off to Sean Millett. He feels that it is important for the younger guys to take over and carry on our traditions.

Crediting his wife Concie for most of his success, Bill says she has always been there to help behind the scenes: counting t-shirts, dividing up equipment, selling raffle tickets. Thanks to Bill and Concie for 30 years of service!

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The “County Guy” Larry Hoerner

Larry graduated from El Camino Real High School in 1975, and was hired by the LAFD in 1978. He spent 13 years at Fire Station 10 where he worked with Lane Kemper. Together they battled the First Interstate Fire, the Dorothy Mae Fire, the Library Fire, and numerous other major incidents.

After 23 years of active service on the LAFD, Larry retired as firefighter/paramedic out 28’s and joined the LA Country Fire Department in 2001. He completed a full rookie drill tower at the age of 44. He is still active on County Fire, and says he will retired from there in a couple of years to go through the LAFD Drill Tower again. The reason to come back to the LAFD? “I want to DROP” he says.

Larry was active on many LAFD committees, including the Firefighter’s Association, Museum Committee, Muster Committee, Bats and Beer, Cheeseburger Open, Steamer Picnic, and the LAFD vs LAPD Boxing Match. You can still see him each and every year lending a hand at the LAFD Invitational Golf Tournament and at Hope for Firefighters. In addition, he and Lane restored the Department’s 1886 Amoskeag Steamer for the Centennial. And he was the Battalion 1 Grapevine writer and contributor of many other articles.

At County Fire, Larry is on the Explorer Board and in charge of the Muster, where up to 300 explorers compete in firefighter-based events. He has taught forcible entry at the Drill Tower to every County recruit class since 2006, instructed at the County Live Burn Training, and was on the Tiller Instructor Committee.

Larry says he was inspired to volunteer so prolifically by the example set by his best friend – the late, great Muster Master, Lane Kemper.

Larry married his wife Ceci in 1988. They like traveling to American museums and historic locations where they enjoy meeting other collectors in their search for antiques and fire memorabilia. They have two daughters: Rachel, who graduated last year from Hofstra University in New York, and Hanna, who is attending Columbia College of Chicago.

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