Firefighter Brian E. Phillips
PUBLIC SERVICES UNIT
PRESS CONTACT: INSPECTOR JIM WELLS
200 NORTH MAIN STREET
LOS ANGELES, CA 90012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
APRIL 26, 1979
While fighting a major lumberyard fire on April 25, 1978
7151 Lankershim Boulevard, a Los Angeles City Firefighter
suffered fatal injuries when he fell from a Fire Department
Brian Phillips, 30 years of age, had been a member of the Los
Angeles City Fire Department for five and one-half years and
was considered a "very reliable, dependable, and willing
worker." Prior to his appointment as a Firefighter, he was
employed as a Rescue Ambulance Driver for the City of Los
Angeles for five months.
He is survived by his wife Brenda and his stepdaughter
Michelle Lee Cupp. Brian Phillips' father, Terry Phillips,
serves on the Los Angeles City Fire Department for 26
and retired as a Captain in 1967.
The fire at Mullin Lumberyard occurred at approximately
7:39 p.m. causing $750,000 in damages and has been listed
as incendiary. The cause of the accident is now under
|The Los Angeles Herald Examiner
April 26, 1979
Fireman Dies In Blaze at
Herald Examiner photo by Dean Musgrove
Los Angeles firefighters battle a $ 750,000 blaze at
the Mullin Lumber Co. in North Hollywood.
A $700,000 fire at a North Hollywood
lumberyard, which officials said was of "suspicious origin," has taken the
life of a 30-year-old firefighter.
Brian Phillips, a 5-1/2 year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire
Department, was fatally injured when he fell from a 50-foot ladder as he
was spraying water on the flames leaping form a building at Mullin Lumber
Co, 7151 Lankershim Blvd., last night
The fire broke out shortly after 7:30 p.m. and city fire
officials said a large warehouse shed containing lumber was fully involved
and extending to an adjacent 50-by-75-foot office building by the time 17
companies of firefighters arrived at the scene.
Fire crews were able to beat back the flames and confine them
to the warehouse and the rear of the office structure, but it took more
than an hour to bring the fire under control, said public service officer
Chatfield said it had not been determined how Phillips fell
from the ladder of the aerial ladder truck.
Phillips' death came a week before his birthday. He
leaves a a wife and a stepdaughter.
Thursday, April 26, 1979
Firefighter killed in
fall at Valley blaze
By ERWIN WASHINGTON
|A Los Angeles city firefighter died
Wednesday night when he fell 75 feet from an aerial ladder truck while
fighting a fire at a North Hollywood lumber company.
Seventeen fire companies with 90 men responded to the blaze which broke
out at 7:39 p.m. and spread into an adjacent one story office
building, causing an estimated $750,000 damage at the Mullin Lumber
Company at 7151 Lankershim Blvd.
The fireman was atop the ladder spraying water on the burning building
when the hose broke loose and "whipped him around" causing him to lose
control and fall a witness said.
The fireman, identified as Brian Phillips, was dead on arrival at Serra
|James Wells, a fire department spokesman at the scene
said the greater alarm fire was of suspicious origin. A burglar
alarm was triggered before the fire started, Wells said.
The blaze began in the lumberyard of the 2 1/4 acre lot and spread to the
adjacent main building, he said.
According to witnesses at the scene the injured fireman held onto the
hose and then fell to the street below, landing head-first on his
helmet. "He hit the ground hard." said and observer.
As the man fell, a second fireman on a ladder a few feet away continued
shooting water on the building with an identical hose.
Fire department investigators at the scene were trying to determine what
triggered the accident.
Official Publication of United Firefighters Local 112 I.A.F.F.--AFL-CIO
Vol. 18. No. 1
Los Angeles, California
City Firefighter Dies at Arson Fire
On April 25, 1979,firefighter Brian E. Phillips was killed during firefighting
operations at the Mullin Lumberyard, 7151 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
Firefighter Phillips was operating a ladder pipe from the top of an aerial
ladder. The ladder pipe assembly came loose from the aerial ladder and knocked
firefighter Phillips from his position. He fell about 50 feet to the ground.
Brian Phillips, 30 years of age, had been a member of the Los Angeles City
Fire Department for five and one-half years. Prior to his appointment as
firefighter, he was employed as a rescue ambulance driver for the City of Los
Angeles for five months.
He is survived by his wife Brenda and his stepdaughter Michelle Lee Cupp.
Brian Phillips' father, Terry Phillips, served on the Los Angeles City Fire
Department for 26 years and retired as a captain in 1967.
The greater alarm fire occurred at approximately 19:39, causing $750,000. in
damages and has been listed as incendiary. The cause of the accident is now
undergoing extensive investigation.
At a press conference held at the Mullin Lumber Company on May 3, 1979, UFLAC
President Lyle Hall told a media packed audience that the firefighter's union
was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and criminal
conviction of the person(s) responsible for the arson fire that took the life of
firefighter Brian E. Phillips.
In addition to President Hall, statements were made by Ezunian Burts,
representing Mayor Bradley, Paul Ditzel, member of the Mayor's Task Force on
Arson, and other representatives of the city fire departments arson section.
President Hall explained that an arson fire which results in a death is
defined as a first degree murder offense. Hall further explained that the news
media's involvement is of up most importance in the apprehension of the
perpetrator's of this crime.
"A Century of Service"
Moments after this photo was taken, Firefighter Brian E.
Phillips, 30, of Task Force 102 (right) was killed when the aerial ladder pipe
assembly came loose, struck Phillips and knocked him off the ladder during the
Mullin Lumber Company arson fire.
THE MULLIN LUMBER COMPANY FIRE
By Paul Ditzel
"A Century of Service"
Arson was forcefully brought to the public’s
attention when two firefighters were killed while battling incendiary fires
which occurred only 17 days apart. Around 7 p.m., April 25, 1979, two burglars
forced entry to the sprawling Mullin Lumber Company, 7151 Lankershim Boulevard
at Sherman Way in North Hollywood. Using metal cutters, they slit a roof vent
and wire screening over the main office which contained a safe. They then
lowered themselves inside. At 7:00 p.m., a burglar alarm from the Mullin yard
was received in the office of Morse Signal Devices. Security officers and
police were notified. Thirteen minutes later, OCD began getting calls of a fire
inside the lumber yard and dispatched a larger-than-normal assignment of
apparatus, including Task Force 89 and Task Force 102. First-due Task Force 89
saw the loomup almost immediately upon leaving quarters and radioed for more
companies. Soon, a total of 17 companies were answering the major emergency
alarm, as soaring flames fed upon large stacks of finished lumber stored inside
a shed immediately north of the office building.
Truck 89 began aerial ladder pipe operations on Lankershim Boulevard near the
fully involved shed. At the corner of Sherman Way and Lankershim, Truck 102 was
spotted and its aerial was raised. Firefighter Brian E. Phillips climbed the
aerial which was extended about 50 feet to position the ladder pipe nozzle where
Phillips cold best direct a master stream to attempt to check the northerly
spread of the fire.
Other firefighters, meanwhile, advanced hoselines into the lumber yard and
attempted to cut off the spread of flames which now involved lumber stacked
outside the shed as well as Mullin’s adjoining retail hardware shop. Division 3
Commander Dudley A. Sorenson ordered the two ladder pipes to shut down so the
powerful streams would not endanger firefighters inside the yard.
The intense flames, gorging upon an enormous fireload of lumber and other
flammables, drove the firefighters back. Sorenson ordered Trucks 89 and 102 to
resume their ladder pipe stream operation. At 8:27 p.m., about a minute after
Sorenson gave the order, a loud clashing of metal against metal was heard above
the roaring flames as Truck 102’s ladder pipe assembly came loose, struck
Phillips, and knocked him off the ladder. He fell about 50 feet to the street.
Rescue Ambulance 89 rushed Phillips to Serra Memorial Hospital where the
30-year-old firefighter was pronounced dead of head injuries.
Immediately after Philips’ fall, an eerie silence fell over firefighters
and the hundreds of spectators. The fire was finally brought under control 65
minutes after the first alarm. Arson investigators found the roof vent assembly
and detected superficial scrapings, probably from a crowbar, on the dial of the
office safe which had not been opened.
Inspector Jim Daneker arrived with the Mobile Lab. Using
a sniffer—a device which can detect the presence of hydrocarbons, such as those
found in gasoline Daneker found at least two points of probable ignition. The
sniffer detected hydrocarbon vapors on the floor of the office and in the lumber
shed. Arson investigators located witnesses who said they saw two men, both
carrying gasoline cans, dash across Sherman Way, enter a car and speed west
immediately before the outbreak of flames.
As the investigation continued, Phillips’ funeral was attended by an
extraordinarily large number of firefighters from departments throughout
Southern California. His survivors include his wife, Brenda, and stepdaughter,
Michelle Lee Cupp; his mother, Loraine, and father, Terry Phillips, a LAFD
captain who had retired from Engine 39 shortly before his son joined the
During a May 3, 1979, news conference amid the lumberyard ruins, Capt. Lyle E.
Hall, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, Local 112,
announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction
of the arsonists. Investigators came frustratingly close to obtaining
sufficient evidence which would have resulted in those arrests and the probable
conviction of the arsonist. The case remains open.
by Brenda Phillips as told to Tony DiDomenico
On the night of April 25, 1979, the nightmare every fireman's wife experiences
at one time or another, became reality.
My husband of less than a year, Brian Phillips, was killed while fighting a
fire at a lumberyard in North Hollywood.
Since that evening, just two weeks ago, at this writing, I've found how much
Brian was loved and respected by the men he worked with--and the many people
whose lives he had touched.
How does one put into words the heartfelt thanks for the outpouring of
sympathy from so many people? Letters from President Carter, Mayor Bradley,
State Fire Marshal Phil Favro, Glendale Fire Department and the Los Angeles
County Fire Department. Cards from close friends as well as strangers, and the
overwhelming number of uniformed members of the LAFD at Brian's funeral. Chief
Gerard's concern for my daughter and me--and the tenderness and compassion shown
by Del Howard and Ray Martin in telling me of Brian's fall that night. Rudy
Concha, Mel Moore and Ken Burton of the Relief Association, in their handling of
the funeral arrangements and always being there when I needed them.
Coming from a firefighting family, Brian knew that was what he had to do with
his life. His dad, Terry Phillips, retired from the LAFD in 1967 and seven
years later Brian joined the Department.
Although married to a firefighter for only ten months, I feel like a 3 1/2
year veteran. I met Brian that long ago and loved "the job" as he did. He had
a way of expressing his pride in firefighting that was contagious. My daughter
Michelle Lee idolized him as did every kid in the neighborhood. Work around the
house was somehow put off till "later" when they saw Brian's truck in the
"Brian's home", was the magic word for the kids. The rest of the day was
spent on fixing bicycles, transistor radios, electronic games, or just splashing
in the pool. The sympathy card signed by some 30 of those kids is something
I'll always treasure---several of them are too young to write their names, but
the intent was there.
Brian's "other family", his buddy firefighters at 102's have been fantastic.
Captains Dave Gehman and Ron Meador, Firefighters Steve Hamilton, Jim Jarvis,
Tony Zar, Lynn Spahr and Tom Prang can't seem to do enough for Michelle and me.
Buddies Ken Evanoff, John Lawrence, and Rick Fox also "adopting' us.
The memorial service leaflet that was passed out the day of the funeral
contained a beautiful prayer for firemen. I had never seen it before and would
like to share it with you.
When I am called to duty, God,
Wherever flames may rage,
Give me strength to save some life
Whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child
Before it is too late
Or save an older person from
The horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout
And quickly and efficiently
To put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling and
To give the best in me,
To Guard my every neighbor and
Protect his property.
And if according to my fate
I am to lose my life,
Please bless with your protecting hand
My children and my wife.
It was how Brian felt about the Fire Department.
The Firemen's Grapevine