The recipient of the 2020 Firefighter of the Year honor went to Captain II Tommy Kitahata. I never had the good fortune of working around Capt. Kitahata but after attending this luncheon I learned so much about him.
Capt. Kitahata joined the LAFD in July of 1988. In 1999, Tommy promoted to A/O and was assigned to FS 3. Captain Dennis Mendenhall was the TFC and Tommy had the good fortune of driving a knowledgeable and seasoned officer. His next promotion would come in 2007 when he made Captain I. His assignments during this time were FS 41, FS 3 and In-Service Training. After his stay at In-Service Training, Capt. Kitahata promoted to Captain II and was assigned to FS 27.
It was while he was assigned to FS 27 that Tommy was set up with a blind date, thanks to a Firefighter buddy. Though it was a double date with his friend, the other couple’s romance fizzled out prior and they were a no-show for the scheduled double date. Fortunately, Tommy and Cheryl, his future wife, went ahead with the planned date, and as they say, the rest is history. Tommy and Cheryl got married in 1993 and have been married for 33 years. And, there’s much more to Tommy Kitahata. Tommy and Cheryl have three children. Grant, who’s the oldest, Lia who just graduated from the University of Washington, and his is youngest son, Bryce, who is currently enrolled at Loyola Marymount College. His children are also amazingly smart. Grant graduated from college with a double masters and soon afterwards joined the U.S. Navy.
While in the Navy, Grant decided to enroll in Naval Officer School, where he will be graduating in the spring of 2022. In the Naval Officer School, he’s learning the finer points of managing and operating a nuclear reactor. So, after graduation, he’ll be assigned to nuclear submarine. Very impressive!
Captain Kitahata is now officially assigned to FS 69 but is detailed to the Covid-19 Logistic Unit. This unit oversees the set up and testing stations throughout the City of Los Angeles. Besides having an amazing family, Tommy and Cheryl also enjoy gardening together. I’ve never seen their garden but Tommy told me Cheryl has a green thumb like no other. Besides gardening, Cheryl does all the landscaping AND operates the lawnmower. What else could a guy ask for? Tommy became interested in the fire service because of his mother. When he was younger his family lived in Torrance and his mother was heavily involved in fundraising for the Torrance Fire Department. After numerous visits to the fire stations Tommy knew exactly what the future held for him.
Tommy and Cheryl also enjoy fishing, biking, hiking, canoeing and camping together. Tommy recently returned from a fishing trip in the Sierra’s where he was hoping to land a winning trout. Unfortunately, the guy next to him caught a nine-pound trout and won the tournament. Tommy said he only managed to haul out a nine-inch trout. Better luck next year, Tommy!
Congratulations Tommy. There’s no doubt that you are very deserving of being named the 2020 Firefighter of the Year.