As far as I can tell, “Bull Engineer” is a term used exclusively by the LAFD. The label refers to the member who has the most seniority in the engineer rank department-wide. Don’t know how or when the tradition of determining the bull originated (if anyone knows please contact me at email@example.com) but I’ve heard that it started in the 1980’s.
The “passing of the bull” ceremony had its capricious beginnings at Fire Station 49. According to Jerry Jeffrey, Sr., “There was always talk of the bull and who it was, but there was never an actual bull until John Hughes retired [in 1993] and presented me with a set of bull horns. Everyone said he was the old bull and I was the new one.”
Jerry said he hung the horns from his locker and didn’t give it much more thought until the next Christmas. 49’s always had a gift exchange and that year Roger Caswell had pulled Jeffrey’s name – only he forgot to buy a gift. So on Xmas Eve, Roger jumped into the plug buggy and ran down to Anaheim Street to find a last-minute gift. He brought back a cheap clay bull . . . and the rest is history.
Along the way someone painted the bull red and then later they started to paint the succession of names on the back of the animal sculpture. John Rasmussen initiated the first organized passing of the bull when, in 1999, he received the statuette in a “formal” ceremony on Boat 2.
When Wayne Nakamura received the bull in 2011, there wasn’t much space for more names on the back of the bull. So he enlisted Dustin Bulmer (also from 89-A) to design and make a plaque. “My thoughts were that whoever had the privilege of receiving the bull should invest a little to make it better,” recalled Nak.
There are now 13 bulls on the “bullpen” plaque from the last 20 years. The longest tenure was Rasmussen for eight years and the shortest was Doug Moore for just one day. With space for 40 names, it should be many decades before the bullpen will be full. Especially since Oscar Gutierrez, the newest bull, who even with 38 years on the job still has not DROP’d.
Bull Assignment Became Bull Retired
John Hughes 49-C 06/30/93
Jerry Jeffrey, Sr 49-C 06/30/93 03/18/99
John Rasmussen 112-B 03/18/99 04/30/07
Mark Howell 49-A 04/30/07 10/18/07
Glen Shorey 28-B 10/18/07 01/11/08
Gale Sanderson 93-A 01/11/08 03/28/09
Tim D. Griffin 49-A 03/28/09 04/29/09
Doug Moore 112-C 04/29/09 04/30/09
Paul Ciaramitaro 112-B 04/30/09 10/31/11
Ron Bruno 69-B 10/31/11 11/30/11
Wayne Nakamura 89-A 11/30/11 03/31/12
Matthew Powell 85-C 03/31/12 07/12/14
Oscar Gutierrez 114-C 07/12/14
The Makings of a Bull
In July of this year, at a formal ceremony at the Navy Depot Yard in Harbor City, the bull was passed from old to new. Matthew Powell from 85-C, the LAFD engineer with the most time in rank, was retiring and it was time for him to turn in his horns. And lucky for new bull Oscar Gutierrez, 114-C, there would be no fighting traffic getting down to the south end of town.
Oscar is still excited when he relates the story: “On the day of transfer, Air Ops flew me down to make the exchange. All of 85’s was staged and awaiting our arrival. It was great! As we landed and shut down the engines, I made my way out of the helicopter and proceeded towards 85’s. I met Engineer Powell mid-way. We shook hands and I took possession of the legendary bull. The rest of the time we spent talking about old times and retirement.”
Back at the hangar in the Valley that afternoon, the crew from Fire Station 90 stopped by and everyone celebrated with B&R, banana splits and cake. The bullpen plaque was quickly mounted on the wall of 114’s dining room for all to marvel at.
Gutierrez was assigned to 90’s for seven years before he came to 114’s. He’s been at the airport for about four years now. He came on the job on 5/15/77 and promoted to engineer on 8/10/81.
“I haven’t DROP’d yet, but plan to in the near future,” said Oscar. “I’m just enjoying the job and loving what I do.”
Hats off to all those who were involved in continuing this special tradition!
Stories by Dave Wagner