Battalion Chief Robert J. MacMillan, LAFD, Retired
Memory Book Committee
Information regarding the On Duty death of F/F Brian Phillips FS-102
The following information relates to the dearth of F/F Brian Phillips during a
lumberyard fire in North Hollywood at the corner of Lankershim Blvd. and Sherman
At the time I was a new Battalion Chief assigned to Battalion 10 "B" Platoon.
I was dispatched at the 2nd alarm Battalion Chief to this fire. responding east
on Sherman Way from Van Nuys there was already evidence of a large working fire
On arrival I was assigned the East and South side of the fire building, which
contained free standing wood products and the stacks of exposed lumber that were
already on fire. I had proceeded through to the West side of the yard to the
South side checking exposures. As I continued around the East side of the fire
building I noted Truck 102 parked at an angle on the southwest corner of the
intersection, putting their ladder pipe into operation on to the fire
building. I also noted a large crowd of people standing on the other side of
Lankershim Blvd. watching the fire.
I was about half way up the blank wall side of the fire building when I heard
the crowd make a strange noise. I looked up and saw that the ladder pipe on
Truck 102 had come disconnected from the top of the raised ladder. The ladder
pipe assembly, a firefighter and the ladder pipe hose was snaking back away from
the top of the ladder. The only thing holding the hose to the ladder was a hose
strap half way down the ladder.
As the snaking hose changed directions the firefighter was snapped away form
the assembly and started a spread eagle, turning fall towards the street below.
Firefighter Phillips hit the street about head first, at the curb line, just a
short distance from the turntable of Truck 102.
Rescue Ambulance 89 were parked a short distance away watching the fire. A
long time friend of mine, retired fireman Dan Martin who returned, as a
paramedic was the attendant on duty. He immediately instructed his driver to
move the ambulance across the street to Firefighter Phillips location, where
they immediately placed him on the gurney and into the ambulance.
As I arrived to the ambulance, Dan Martin advised me that the firefighter
would not survive the fall. Rescue 89 immediately transported their patient to
the hospital. Paramedic Martin later told me that his immediate concern was to
remove the fallen firefighter from the presence of his other crew members, who
had also witnessed the fall, as quickly as possible for their sake.
I reported the information to the Command Post and Task Force 102 was
immediately removed from the firefighting duty. Truck 102 apparatus was left in
position pending an investigation that would follow to determine the cause of
Fire Commissioner John Lawson was in the crowd as he lived in Fire Station
89's district and he routinely attended large fires in their district, and we
were friends. He came to me and I advised him of Paramedic Martin's statement
and he immediately went to the Command Post to offer his assistance.
The image of the snaking firefighter and the ladder pipe assembly will always
stay with me as if it happened yesterday. To this day I can remember thinking
at the time, "This can not be happening to us".
Robert J. MacMillan
I hope the attached information will be of value to you and the Committee.
In writing the (above) account of Brian Philips death I did not go into the
finding of the investigation that took place that night, as I did not think it
was necessary, or needed to be published. But as a friend I can tell you
for background, what the facts showed that night.
When the fire was knocked down the Chief Engineer (John Gerard) arrived and we
looked at the apparatus. That night Truck 102 was a relief apparatus.
I can not recall if the ladder pipe was an "improvised" ladder pipe or one from
their regular apparatus placed on the "relief" rig as we so often did in those
days. But it appeared that it did not fit the rungs properly. The
ladder strap that should have been placed to secure it to the ladder had been
omitted and was found in the compartment at the turntable. The safety
strap that was used for the firefighter to secure himself to the top of the
ladder had been positioned around the assembly and not the ladder and then
snapped into only one of the two "D" rings on his coat.
When the ladder pipe assembly came undone from the rungs Brian was attached to
the assembly and hose and not the ladder. Since the hook was only through
one "D" ring, when the hose reversed direction the force pealed the "D" ring and
nylon strap from the turnout coat, thus causing Brian to fall to his death.
At that time, there was no policy to install a shut off butt at the bottom of
the hose, leading up the aerial ladder, to quickly shut down the water supply in
the event of such an emergency, as is done today. That night the hose had
to be traced back to the Engine on the corner supplying the water to Truck 102.
Robert J. MacMillan