Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

Scott, Chief for 20 Years,
  Would do It Over Again

'I Am Just
Another Old
Fire Horse'

Says Traffic Hazards Worse
Than Battling Blazes

    (Fire Chief Ralph J. Scott, 56, whose retirement comes June 1, after 35 years of service, 20 as chief, has written the following article for the Examiner.)

If the year were 1905 and I was 21 again, I would become a member of the Los Angeles Fire Department, and serve until June 1, 1940.

    That is what I think of the career I chose 35 years ago, and which is coming to a close next June 1, when I retire.

    Should I say I am leaving the department without any regrets, that, of course, would be a misstatement.

    But my regret is predicated upon 35 years in the same vocation.  Show me a man who would not be "lost" for a while, after that may years of doing the same work--exciting work, at times.

FIRE CHIEF Ralph J. Scott, who will retire after 35 years next June 1, pictured in his "work clothes."          
                                                                              --Los Angeles Examiner photo.
    I'm just another old fire horse that has gone to Elysian meadows, but I might add, I believe the old fire horses missed the bang of the gongs--and so will I.

    We all must fold up, in  time, and my great wish is that I may do it gracefully, with malice toward none, and without apology to any person.  I've tried to play the game with the cards dealt me.

    When I was asked to write this article for the Examiner, suggestion was made that I recall specific instances of thrilling experiences.

    Well, I do not consider I had any.  Firemen get paid for putting out and preventing fires, and the risks they take are part of that job.

    Sure, I've been near death many times, but just think of the many men in less hazardous work than firefighting who have bitten the dust since I've been in the department.

    There is nothing especially heroic about fighting fires.  Of course, it is not a game for a fellow who holds back when danger lurks.

    If you don't go into a blazing building--even needlessly--the public is critical, and, sometimes, if you do go in, you're a damn fool.

    Both my men and myself consider traffic hazards in getting to fires greater than those that develop at the conflagration.

    You have no idea of the sinking feeling you get when being driven down a street at 60 miles an hour and some motorist ignores the law and drives out in front of you.

    I've been around gasoline-filled railroad tank cars that were about to burst from heat--just to mention one form of danger.

    Well, it is the department's duty to do something--and quickly--danger be hanged.  We don't get paid for running away, letting the explosion occur, and possibly kill 200 or 300 people.

    Men who fail to realize this responsibility as a part of their job don't last long in the department.

    It is my sincere hope that my successor will be a man of great capabilities, and one in whom the public and department personnel have the utmost confidence.

    To the fine men who make up the department, and to the public which has extended us every consideration, I will say goodby.

    Another fire horse has gone to the meadow.

This article appeared in the Los Angeles Examiner early 1940.

Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved.