Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Fireman John C. "Red" Hough
Operator for Deputy Chief Blake
December 11, 1939

Fireman John C. "Red" Hough

By Bill Goss

THE big red-headed fellow used to pass the engine house at Seventh and Santa Fe daily on his way to and from work at the nearby Los Angeles Ice and Cold Storage plant.  In seemingly no time "Red" became acquainted with the gang and often used to drop into the house for a cup of java and to participate in the ever present bull sessions.  One day Captain Wesley Augustine, in charge of the engine at 17s said:  " 'Red' why don't you join up with the fire department.  This department needs men and we certainly could use you?"  "Red" mused it over for a while and said.   "Well, Cap, if I could work down here I believe I would like to be on the department, but if they will send me to some of the districts farther out, it will be no deal."  The officer assured him that he could take care of that minor detail and thus it was that on June 5, 1918, John C. Hough came to the department.

    Hough fitted into the department work and routine like a glove and with his inherent warm and affable manner soon had a wealth of friends.  The day that 17s received their first motor powered wagon to replace the horse drawn one, "Red" went to the shop and drove it back to quarters.  On the morning of December 30, 1920, "Red" was busy working in the yard back of 17s when a man came running in to tell of his fellow worker being overcome with poisonous gas while fumigating the nearby Albers Brothers Milling Co. building.  "Red" dropped what he was doing and quickly sped to the scene.  There he found that employees of the Pacific R & H Chemical Co. in the process of feeding deadly cyanide gas fumes from a hose into the windows of the building had let the hose get away from them and that the fire escape balcony from which they worked was permeated with the deadly fumigant.  Somehow all the men but one managed to get away and this one lay in an inert huddled heap a couple of floors above, with the gas still spewing from the hose.  Without so much as a moment's hesitation "Red" was up the stairs and gathering up the unconscious victim made a quick return to the ground.  Artificial respiration along with inhalators and hospital treatment soon had the man back on his feet but the fact that he was alive was due only to "Red's" split second thinking and quick acting with absolute disregard for his own safety.  For this heroic act John Hough was awarded the Medal of Valor which honor has not been conferred upon a member on the department since, but unless you heard about it from outside sources you never would have been aware that he possessed such an award.  "Red" in his modest way, was never known to have mentioned it.

    On December 1, 1923, Captain Augustine was promoted to the rank of Battalion Chief, was assigned to Battalion 7 on the B platoon, and he took Red with him to be his operator.  A short time later, June 16, 1924, "Red" was promoted to autofireman.  From then on it seemed as though the men with the gold buttons competed in getting "Red" to be their operator.  Chief Augustine lost him to Assistant Chief Edwards, who in turn lost him to Deputy Chief McDowell, and when Bert Blade succeeded Chief McDowell as Deputy Chief he to kept "Red."  It was while operating for Chief Blake that "Red" answered his last alarm, the one that was to result in his death. 

    Over on Broadway the fire in the Gray building was rapidly getting out of hand on November 6, 1939, and when the 9-2-1133 came in for that fire "Red," driving Chief Blake who responded on the second, rolled to his last big fire.  It was while "Red" was leading the rescuers in an attempt to extricate the body of John Kacl that he was injured, although at the time neither he nor anyone else realized it.   As they had just about uncovered Kacl's body another of the upper floors came crashing down upon them and amid this debris "Red" was struck across the helmet by a heavy floor joist.  Dazed, he went outside and sat on the curb to rest a minute and sort of sweep the cobwebs away.  He continued working despite a severe headache which lasted for several shifts.  A few days later, while driving for Chief Augustine, who was acting as Deputy, "Red was out at 66s sleeping in, when about 4:30 in the morning he awoke to find himself in a paralyzed condition and unable to stand.   The ambulance and doctor were called from the 77th street police station and Dr. Paulson, who responded, could find no evidence of paralysis.  The spell wore away and at 7:30 of the same morning "Red" drove the Chief back to headquarters.   "Red" went off duty that morning and decided that a few day's rest would bring him around to his old self again.  The rest seemed to agree with him and to be doing some good until the morning of December 11 when he had another spell of the paralysis.  Once again Dr. Paulson of the 77th street station responded and by now believed that "Red" might have a possible ventral hemorrhage of the brain.   This belief prompted him to bring "Red" into the Receiving Hospital at 9:09 a.m.  About noon time "Red" was once again feeling pretty good and was sitting on the edge of the bed talking to Chief Blake, when all at once he folded up and slid off onto the floor.  He was quickly placed in bed and Rescue 23 was summoned to provide assistance in breathing but despite this "Red" passed away at 7:40 p.m.

    John C. Hough was born in Boulder, Colorado, November 7, 1893, and was survived by his widow, Helen C. Hough.  Funeral services were held at the Bramble Funeral Home on December 15, 1939, and further services were conducted at Forest Lawn by the Builders' Club, the Masonic order of which he was a prominent member.  Among a long list of prominent honorary pall bearers, the active bearers were Bert M. Blake,   W. H. Augustine, A. W. MacDougall, William Barclay, C. A. Halter, and G. C. McKee.   Thus "Red" Hough passed on to join the man he had so valiantly attempted to save in the fire gutted Gray Building.

This article appeared in the March, 1945 issue of the Fireman's Grape Vine.

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