Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Firefighter II Frank Hotchkin
Truck Company 1
A Platoon
Appointed May 15, 1977
Died September 27, 1980
Died of burns from fall through roof.
Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center
1700 Stadium Way
near Dodger Stadium

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Firefighter II Frank Hotchkin

Los Angeles Times

Late Alarm Blamed in Fire Death
Delay Called Factor in Reserve Center Fatality
Times Staff Writer

    A "delayed alarm" figured in the death of a Los Angeles fireman while fighting a blaze Saturday at the Naval Reserve Center in Elysian Park, a Fire Department official said Monday.

    Los Angeles Fire Capt. Tony DiDomenico said an investigation of the incident revealed that the fire had started more than 90 minutes before firefighters arrived--a fact unknown when fireman Frank Hotchkin, 24, and about 11 others climbed onto the roof of the two-story structure in an attempt to cut a hole to prevent the flames from spreading.

    "The fire had been smoldering since about 9:30 a.m." DiDomenico said, "But when a maintenance worker noticed smoke coming out of one of the heating vents he thought they were testing the boilers and didn't call the Fire Department.

    "At 10:30,he noticed heavier smoke but didn't call until 11:13 when he saw burning embers coming out of the vents," he said.

    DiDomenico said by the time firefighters climbed to the roof, flames had burned through the 10 inches of wood sheathing under the tile shingles.

    Hotchkin was killed when part of the roof collapsed and he fell through.

    DiDomenico said it is normal procedure for firefighters to climb on the roof, but only when the fire has been burning for a far shorter time

    "We had no idea it had been burning for as long as it had,"  he said.  "The main problem was a delayed alarm.  We weren't called in time."

    Meanwhile, DiDomenico said the official cause of the blaze, which did an estimated $500,000 damage, was an electrical malfunction originating in the attic.  He said recent attempts by armory officials to correct the "problems" had been unsuccessful.

    It took 160 firefighters about two hours to control the blaze after it broke out in the large building containing mostly classrooms.  Naval officials said hundreds of reserve sailors and marines usually attend drills and meetings in the building on weekends, but on Saturday no drills had been scheduled.

    Funeral services for Hotchkin will be held Friday at St. David's Episcopal Church, 11605 Magnolia Blvd. North Hollywood.  Hotchkin, a Newbury Park resident who grew-up in Van Nuys and married his high school sweetheart, June Marie, had been a firefighter for about three and one half years.


This article appeared in the Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1980

Fire Station No. 1 remembers 
a fallen 24-year-old colleague

By Nicole Szuic
Herald Examiner staff writer

  There was rock music drifting out of Fire Station No. 1 in Lincoln Heights yesterday, but none of the firemen inside felt much like listening.
  Outside Old Glory was flying at half-staff for Fire Fighter-II Frank Hotchkin, who died in a blaze at the Marine and Naval Reserve Training Center Saturday.
  "I don't think any structure is so worth saving that it's worth someone's life." said Gary Mellinger, 29, who was on the roof of the building with Hotchkin when it collapsed.
  "All of us who were out there with him have a great feeling of guilt, and wonder what we could have done to keep it from happening." Mellinger said.
  Although none of the other firemen saw it happen, Hotchkin, 24, fell through a burning roof into a concrete inferno where the heat was estimated at 1,500 degrees.
  Mellinger's handwritten report described the roof as having been intact just seconds before Hotchkin was discovered missing.
  According to Mellinger, Hotchkin had gone to get a pike pole when he realized it was needed to punch a hole in the roof.  "No one ordered him to do it, he just elected himself," he recalled.
  Hotchkin then retuned with the pole and began walking across the roof.  It was the last time anyone saw him alive.
  "It feels like someone cut off your leg when something like this happens." Mellinger said, pausing and biting his lip. "I can only equate it with your spouse or one of your children dying, especially someone as young as Frank was."
  Hotchkin grew up in the Van Nuys area and graduated from Gant High School in 1974.  He attended Valley Community College in preparation for fire service.
  He married his high school sweetheart, June Marie, in 1977, and his friends said he had been excited about a remodeling project he had started on his Newbury Park home not long ago.
  According to Capt. Harold Burkhart at Station No. 1, Hotchkin received very high marks at the L.A. City Fire Department Training Academy, which he attended in March and April of 1977.
  Hotchkin served his probationary period at Stations 39 and 83 in the Sherman Oaks-Van Nuys area, and finished his training at Station 88, also in Sherman Oaks, where he spent 2 1/2 years.  Then before going to Station 1, where he had been since last August, he spent a month at Station 12 on North Figueroa.
  Those who knew and worked with him described him in more than the predictable glowing terms.
  "Franks' death is far more than a tragedy," said Capt. Russ Wenk, at Station 88, who was Hotchkin's immediate superior during the time Hotchkin was assigned there.
  "He was one of those rare individuals who could do any job, any time," Wenk said.  "He just cared so much about people.  That's what his death was about--he always wanted to do that little bit extra." said Wenk.
  "Frank was a very aggressive firefighter," said Mellinger.  His loyalty to his job was more than I could ever expect from myself.  He was just a gung-ho young member."
  Burkhart, who had not been on duty Satruday, learned of Hotchkin's death on the 11 p.m. news.
  "I couldn't sleep all night you just never expect it happen to anyone close to you.

The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Monday, September 29, 1980

On September 27, 1980, Firefighter Frank Hotchkin was killed in the line of duty at the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Training Center, 1700 Stadium Way.  The major emergency fire was fought for two and one-half hours by 40 companies under the command of Deputy Department Commander Allen Evansen.
    Firefighter Hotchkin was assigned to Task Force 1, and was assisting with ventilation on the two-story, tile-roofed, concrete building.  Without warning, a fire-weakened portion of the roof collapsed beneath him.
    Although only twenty-four years of age and a member of the Department for three years, Frank had gained an extremely high degree of  respect from his peers--old timers and youngsters alike. His attitude, ability, and loyalty to the job impressed members at all his assignments including Fire Stations 1, 12, 88,39, and 83.  
    The funeral on Friday, October 3, was overwhelming in the number of uniformed  firefighters and apparatus from this Department and surrounding jurisdictions.  A touching and beautiful service was given by Father Fenwick of Saint David's Episcopal Church and LAFD Chaplain Ray Martin. The service was concluded by an Honor Guard of U.S. Marines firing a 21 gun salute, which was followed by a flyover by Fire and Police helicopters.
    Our heartfelt and deepest sympathy go out to Frank's wife, June Marie and his parents.

The Firemen's Grapevine, November 1980

Hundreds Attend Firefighters Funeral

  An estimated 700 uniformed firefighters filled Saint David's Episcopal Church in North Hollywood for the services and later followed the hearse carrying the coffin to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills where Firefighter Frank Hotchkin was buried.
  The funeral procession, led by twenty fire rigs and 35 chief cars, stretched for miles and tied up traffic at intersections for about an hour as it wound its way from the church to the grave site.
  A Marine Corps Honor Guard rendered a 21-gun salute at the grave site, as city fire and police helicopters flew in formation overhead.
  Graveside remarks and prayers were delivered by Battalion Chief and Chaplain Ray Martin.  Hotchkin's wife, June Marie, and his father and mother, cried quietly while Martin spoke about the firefighter's brief career.
  Among those attending were representatives from the Mayor's office and the Los Angeles Police Department, as well as Los Angeles City Fire Chief John  C. Gerard and County Fire Chief Clyde Bragdon.  Other fire departments and members of the International Association of Fire Fighters were in attendance.
  Firefighters from the stations were Hotchkin worked served as pallbearers and led the funeral procession in their fire trucks.  Hundreds of pedestrians and motorists watched as the procession made its way slowly though the streets of North Hollywood, while office workers could be seen staring out their windows at the long line of cars and trucks.  City fire trucks were stationed at various intersections along the route with their crews standing beside the vehicles at attention.

The Los Angeles Firefighter

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