Truck Plunges Into Ravine; Fireman Dies
One fireman was killed and another seriously injured late
Saturday night when their patrol truck roared off a narrow
mountain road into a ravine 300 ft. below.
They were answering a fire call at 1720
San Ysidro Dr. when the accident occurred at 11:54 p.m.
Robert L. Gillies, 44, of 231 Paseo de
Granada, Torrance, was killed. His partner, Reginald
D. Duffin, 36, of 13804 Enadia Way, Van Nuys, was in
serious condition at Central Receiving Hospital.
The men, members of the Los Angeles Mountain Patrol, were
riding in a one-ton truck behind another fire engine when
they plunged off Summitridge Rd. about 100 ft. south of
Oak Pass rd., which is south of Mulholland Dr. in the
mountain area north of Beverly Hills.
Commander Henry C. Sawyer of the
Mountain Patrol said the lead fire engine lost sight of
the other truck as it rounded a curve in the darkness on
the narrow dirt road.
When the two men failed to arrive at
the fire scene, a search was begun. The mangled
truck was found at the bottom of the ravine two hours
Duffin was discovered about 250 ft.
down the embankment and Gillies' body about 275 ft. down
The fire alarm was caused by a faulty
heating unit which filled a house with smoke, Sawyer said.
Los Angeles Times, January 15, 1962
THE LAST ALARM
of the Los Angeles Fire Department mourn the loss of one
of their fellow fire fighters, Robert L. Gillies Jr., who
lost his life as the result of an accident while
responding to an alarm on January 14, 1962. The
accident occurred in the Mountain Patrol area.
Bob was appointed to the Fire Department on September 23,
1947 and he worked on the "B" shift in the
Metropolitan Area (Battalions 1, 4 and 7) until his
transfer to the Valley in April of 1959. On March
10, 1961 he was assigned to the Mountain Patrol Division.
Bob proved to be a definite asset wherever he was
assigned, not only for his ability as a fireman but also
for his ability to make friends, being a congenial person
to work with.
He was very active in his Masonic Lodge, West Adams Lodge
#565, having been elected Senior Warden.
He is survived by his wife Mary and two children, Robert
L. Gillies III and Mary Margaret Gillies. His family
may feel assured that a helping hand is available from the
Department or its members whenever the need arises.
FIREMEN'S GRAPEVINE March 1962
At 11:45 p.m., January 14, 1962, Mountain Patrol and other units were
dispatched by the Van Nuys Signal Office to 1720 San Ysidro Drive where a faulty furnace was filling a house
with smoke. Mountain Patrol 2's 1000-gallon tank wagon
responded south on Summitridge drive to where it intersects with
San Ysidro. Following the wagon was a Mountain Patrol pickup
truck with a booster tank and hose.
Arriving on San Ysidro, firefighters discovered the pickup
truck was missing. After a long search in the darkness, the
apparatus was found at the bottom of a deep gully, 100-feet south
of Oak Pass Road (High Ridge Drive). The rig had failed to
make a sharp turn at that point and plunged hundreds of feet into
the gully. Mountain Patrolman Reginald D. Duffin, 36, was
found, seriously injured , 250-feet down the embankment.
Twenty-five feet beneath him lay the body of Mountain Patrolman
Robert L. Gillies, 44. He was the only patrolman to lose his
life in the line of duty.
A Century Of Service, by Paul Ditzel
The City of Los Angeles contains over 109 square miles of brush
extending from Griffith Park to Topanga Canyon. Many more
miles of brush sprawl beyond the city limits in the adjacent Santa
Monica Mountains. This natural ground cover is naturally
impregnated with highly volatile oils and resins to protect it
from the sun. No brush in the world burns as fast especially
when preheated by low relative humidity and fanned by seasonal
Santa Ana winds. In December of 1924 Chief Ralph Scott
directed the formation of the Mountain Patrol. Two Water
Department buildings were converted into two Mountain Patrol
Stations along Mulholland Drive which laced the top of the Santa
Monica Mountains. Patrol 1 was located at Franklin Avenue
(Coldwater Canyon) and Patrol 2 was located further west at Sepulveda
Canyon (16500 Mulholland Drive). Additionally, the
department built three lookout stations. The civilians
employees of the patrol maintained 115 miles of firebreaks, 75
miles of trails and 29 miles of roadways. The department
members assigned enforced fire coded ordinances, informed the
public about fire safety and assisted with fire fighting.
The Mountain Patrol protected the Mountain Fire District until the
fall of 1968 when four fully staffed fire stations went into
service along Mulholland Drive.