Mere blocks from the glitz of downtown Hollywood, the old Fire Station 27 is now home to a museum highlighting the history of the LAFD as well as the Fallen Firefighter Memorial. Each year, the family, friends, and co-workers of firefighters who passed away in the line of duty gather for an annual ceremony to honor and remember those they have lost. The Annual LAFD Fallen Firefighters Memorial Ceremony for 2014 was held on October 11th.
Traditionally, the keynote speaker at the annual ceremony is the relative of a fallen firefighter. This year’s keynote speaker was Nicole Pinel, daughter of Benjamin Pinel, Fire Station 54. She gave a very moving speech about her father, who passed away 30 years ago when she was only a few months old. Nicole has attended the annual memorial service every year since. “It’s a department that’s very special to me and very close to my heart. Being that this is the 30-year anniversary… and me just turning thirty, it seemed like kind of a culminating event and something that I could really honor my dad with.”
“It means the world to me,” said Carol Pinel, Nicole’s mother and Ben’s wife. She attends the ceremony each year and has done so for the past three decades. “They should be honored. It’s just a beautiful ceremony and a beautiful venue and I’m proud to be here every year.”
Mario Pinel was also there to honor his brother and to hear his niece speak. “A lot of him is in her. I know because I grew up with him and he taught me these same values and that’s why I’m the person I am today.” He credits his brother as being the inspiration for him joining the LAFD.
LAFD Chaplain Craig Poulson, who gave the benediction at the close of the ceremony, called the memorial “a place of comfort.” He said that he too had a specific firefighter in mind during today’s ceremony, Captain I Joseph C. Dupee from Engine Company 57 who passed away on the job in 1998. “I was his nozzleman when he died at that fire… I was actually the last one to talk to him.” He said that while there are other names on that wall that he knows, he feels a special sense of loyalty to Captain Dupee. “Because he died in the line of duty in a structure fire and I was with him, I have a personal tie into that.”
While the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund plays an important role in helping the families of fallen firefighters, the firefighter community is an integral part of the healing process. And that’s the message that the annual Memorial Ceremony really sends. As organizer and LAFD Chaplain, Captain II Rick Godinez put it, “We’re not going to forget. We always talk about us being a family—we’re not going to forget.”
By Jody Houser