Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive


Joseph W. Kacl Killed
Fighting 'Red Demon'
in Broadway Building

    "Killed in action--while saving lives and protecting property."

    That is the final chapter of a fire hero's life--the last contribution to the Department and the city by Joseph W. Kacl, who Monday afternoon, November 6th, got his Final Transfer while fighting the Broadway fire in the Gray Building.

    It was 2:02 Monday afternoon. The gong at Headquarters tapped: One--one--three-three (indicating the box number at Third and Broadway.) In less than five minutes the company rolled up to the Gray Building, 336 1/2 South Broadway. And these men rolled up to a raging inferno of billowing smoke through which licked the long, ever sharp arms of scorching flames.

    The blaze was a stubborn, dangerous and heavy smoke fire--but every man faced this with the highest courage that men can attain. There was work to be done, and these brave men did that work without a look behind. None faltered. It was a glorious day for the Los Angeles Fire Department as they shot up fire escapes and ladders with hose lines and axes to do battle with the Red Demon.

    Even as death-dealing bricks, sharp pieces of cornice, flaming timber, charred wood fixtures, showered upon them like a storm of death the boys carried on. It was into such a setting that Fireman Joe Kacl and his companions stepped, onto an upper floor carrying a kicking, squirming heavy line of hose, charged with tons of power-driven water.

    Joe and his pals did not give a thought to the strangling, suffocating fumes, as even, without a look back to their Chief, they charged the innermost inferno of the Red Demon of death and destruction, that they could play their line on the white-hot flames which seared their bodies through the choking smoke.

    Suddenly, the floor shook under their feet--it was sickening--fresh flames enveloped the men. They knew it was coming; they tried to leap to safety, but insecure footing, wet floors, debris which tripped then; scorching flames and death fumes--

    Crash! down they were hurled amidst flooring timber, printing machinery, and fixtures. Down--down--down towards an inferno of death. A miracle for the boys, except Joe--all were hurled to safety--while he was carried on down into a flaming pyre. Then quiet--

(Please turn page ten)


To Fireman Joe Kacl,
Station in the Sky

 Dear Joe--Well, Joe, we have surely missed you at Truck 3 since the Big Chief transferred you to His Station up there.

    There sure is a blank space around here that we can't just seem to fill. We came back to the Station, Joe, after your transfer, and, believe me, we were a pretty sick-looking lot. We just couldn't understand why He had to transfer you. We needed you here, Joe, and we were just doing fine with you to help us out with your usual work of cheer when the going was tough or we felt blue. But He must have needed a real good man up there, Joe, worse than we did here, and we who worked with you know that he picked one who was every inch a man, one who always did just a little more than his share of the work, and asked just a little less credit for his efforts. One who was always ready to go out of his way to do some friend a favor, large or small, and asked nothing in return.

    That's why we miss you so, Joe; those little favors and boosts were something we just took for granted while you were here, but now that you're gone we really miss them.

    Well, Joe, I know you'll have a good time up there at your new Station, with all the Old Timers. You know you'll be a "rookie" now, but don't let that worry you, Joe. Just ask some of the Old Timers, such as Captain Henry, or Chief Edwards, or some of the others up there. They'll give you the low-down. And through the years, as each one of us are transferred up there to try and lend you a hand, you can pass the information on to us; for we'll need it then worse than you do now. And, of course, it is just like our probation. We have to work in three stations while serving our probation, and eventually we will all be transferred to our Final Station up with you. So, up until then, Joe, you have left something with us here at 3s which we will never forget and which we truly appreciate.

    Oh! yes, Joe, I almost forgot. The ball players up there are going to get a break, too, for if they don't have a league we know you will organize one, and with your usual thoroughness will make it a success.

    Well, Joe, we just wanted you to know that we really miss you here and we know we'll never have any one who can fill your place in the same unselfish and untiring way in which you did.


TEN                                      T H E    G R A P E    V I N E                       November 15, 1939

Honoring one of their comrades, Joseph Kacl, who died in line of duty in the fire that swept the Gray Building, 336 1/2 South Broadway, last Monday, members of Truck Co. No. 3 are shown carrying Kacl's casket from All Saints Church in El Sereno after requiem mass.  Pallbearers are Capt. William Barclay, Edgar Dawson, Ed Schumacher, Ed Copper, Walter Richter and C. D. Wood.

                                                                        --Photograph and Cut courtesy L. A. Evening Herald-Express


    Captain John Y. Cordell, chaplain of the Fire Department, in a beautiful and well chosen language, at Angelus Temple last Sunday evening, spoke feelingly on the life and accomplishments of his late comrade, Joseph W. Kacl, who had transferred during the week from this material life to that of the spiritual.

    In the huge capacity audience which packed the large edifice there were many a tear silently shed in memory of Fireman Joe during the short service in his honor.

    Mrs. McPherson spoke a glowing tribute to the valor and courage of the splendid personnel making up the Los Angeles Fire Department, and of the wonderful equipment operated by this heroic and efficient personnel.


(from page one)

It was some hours following the fire before the tired, exhausted, smoke blackened firemen, in spite of torrents of death still falling at intervals, were able to struggle through the debris and recover the body of their pal--Joseph W. Kacl, Los Angeles hero.
    He was born in Winepeg, Canada, on December 18, 1914, coming to Southern California in his early youth. He was a popular athlete at Lincoln High School where he received his Education. He was married to his school-day sweetheart, Miss Katheryn Helper, in Santa Barbara, on October 24, 1937.
    He received his appointment to the Los Angeles Fire Department on July 27, 1937, and to Class "C" of the relief Association, and to the Life and Accident Department on August 10th of the same year.
    Rosary was said on Wednesday evening, November 8, in the chapel of F. A. Utter and Son, Funeral Directors 345 West Main Street, Alhambra.
    Funeral services for the hero fireman, beautiful in their impressiveness, were conducted on Thursday morning. November 9th, under the auspices of the Relief Association. 
    Between rows of bare-headed and uniformed members of Truck Co. 3, the body was carried from All Saints Church in El Sereno after the impressive requiem mass.
    Pallbearers who carried the white rose covered casket included two of his fellow Firemen who narrowly escaped a similar fate in the burning building. They were Edgar Dawson and Ed Schumacher. The other pallbearers were Capt. William Barclay and Fireman Ed Cooper, Walter Richter and C.D. Wood.
    The rites were read by Father J. Shear in a church packed with members of the Police and Fire Departments, and interment followed at Calvery Cemetery.
    Joseph W. Kacl leaves to mourn his untimely end his wife, Mrs. Katheryn Kacl, his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Kacl, his sister, Miss Mary Kacl, and a host of comrades and friends.
    The many beautiful floral gifts at the service spoke silent tribute to the honor and friendship in which Fireman Kacl was held by all who knew him.



To the members of the
Los Angeles Fire Department

I wish to express my very sincere gratitude to the men of the Los Angeles Fire Dept. I will never be able to completely thank you for the many kindnesses and heartfelt concern you have extended. I do not know how I could have gone through this period without the very capable and sympathetic aid of the members of your organization.

It is deep comfort to know that if Joe had to go, he went doing his job to the best of his ability and with men he loved and admired. Joe would not have wanted me to regret his being a fireman in view of what has happened. He was proud to be a fireman and he enjoyed his work and the men he worked with.

The men of the Fire Dept. have in so many lovely ways shown their respect and admiration for Joe that my heart is full. I can say in all sincerity that I am proud Joe was one of you.

No one can quite conceive the vast emptiness his going has left, but I will not be less brave than Joe or the men he worked with.

Mrs. Kathryn Kacl.


Mrs. Kacl's letter appeared in the 
November 30, 1939 issue of THE GRAPE VINE.

"Red" Hough Receives
Head Injuries That
Bring Death This Week

  Auto-Fireman John C. "Red" Hough, who had served for some time as operator for Deputy Chief Bert M. Blake, passed away Monday evening, December 11th, following an illness of about three weeks.

  Victim of the recent tragic Broadway fire which claimed the late Joseph Kacl, Hough was the first to brave the danger zone in an attempt to rescue his entombed comrade. Struck a terrific blow on the head by a crashing timber while tearing at the debris, the heroic fireman continued to lead the battle in an effort to extricate his trapped pal.

  He reported for duty the day after the fire without a word to his companions about the pain that seared his head. Three days later, as he sat in church, he listened to the requiem high mass read for his late comrade.

  However, a week later, "Red" had to give up, the torture being too great. He was suddenly stricken seriously ill while at Engine and Truck 66, headquarters for Battalion Eight. Rest was not the answer and he was removed to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital, where it was learned that a blood vessel had been broken in his head, and it was here that the "last long ring" came for the final transfer of this heroic fireman.

  He was the only living member that wore the cherished "Medal of Valor," won for the extreme heroism in the face of danger. He was awarded this medal in 1921, just two years and a half after he became a member of the Department.

  Answering an emergency call on December 31, 1920, he raced on foot a block away to a milling plant, where he broke a sealed window, entered a cyanide gas filled chamber of death on an upper floor, picked up a dying man and staggered to the window--and the pulmotors. The split seconds between the truck with the gas masks and the life-saving equipment, saved by him, perhaps saved a person he never saw before.

  John C. Hough is not mourned alone by his widow, but by every comrade in the Fire Department, as the Stars and Stripes float at half staff over the fire stations of the city.
He was born on November 7, 1893, in Boulder, Colo., and joined the Fire Department on June 6, 1918. He resided at 1548 West Sixty-Seventy Street.

  He was a member of the "B" shift, vice president of the Builders Club and a member of the drill team of the club.

  Funeral arrangements and services were not announced in time for this issue of The Grape Vine.

THE GRAPE VINE,  December 15, 1939

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