Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

January 30, 1981                      Los Angeles Times                                         CC/Part II

Fireman's Comrades Mourn Death
But They Love Jobs Despite Danger

By ERIC MALNIC, Times Staff Writer

  "I was driving to the fire station when I heard it on the radio," Jim Barrett, a Los Angeles fire fighter said. 
  "They were saying something about a fire in North Hollywood--something about a fireman getting killed and others being hurt.
  "I thought to myself, "God, I hope it's not anyone from the station.  Then I saw all the cars in front of our place and I knew it was one of us."
  Barrett said he ran into the Task Force 60 fire house at Tujunga Avenue and Chandler Boulevard.  He saw the men's faces.
  " 'Who was it?' I asked.  "Someone told me it was Tom Taylor.  I damned near cried."

  Roof Collapsed in Blaze
  Taylor had lost his life a few hours before when the roof of a burning restaurant four blocks away collapsed, dragging him with it.  Eight other men were injured in the Wednesday morning blaze, two of them seriously.
  The firefighters on duty Thursday sat quietly around the big wooden tables in the station house kitchen, talking about Tom Taylor and what had happened the day before.
  "When we got back to the station after the fire, everyone was kind of quiet." Ted O'Miela, the battalion chief at the station, recalled.
  "Fortunately, we had a lot of cleaning up to do--the equipment was dirty and banged up--and that kept us all busy.  I didn't have time to sit down and think about it . . .
  "After a while, we had a rap session.
  "We talked about what we might have done to make things different.  But we finally realized there was nothing we could have done.  Nothing.  There was no way to know that roof was going to go."
  But it did . . .
  "We talked about things to take our minds off it.  But we'd always keep coming back to Taylor and the fire.  It's not the kind of thing you can forget."
  "But there's no good in dwelling on it, either," Barrett said "You know you've got to get back on that truck and go out again, maybe right away."
  "That's true," O'Miela said.  "Despite it all, you love this job.
  "It's not just because you are helping people.  Part of it is the excitement.  Maybe even the danger.  It gets into your blood.
  "When the bell rings, answer it.  You have places to go and things to do."
  The conversation broke for a minute, and several of the men strolled off, some of them resuming the cleaning and maintenance tasks on the big trucks parked in the bay adjacent  to the kitchen.
  Others refilled coffee cups and the talk started up again.
                                                                                                       Please see FIREMEN, Page 6

FIREMEN: Sadness Over Death

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  "All of us have had close calls," O'Miela said.
  "I came close myself once, 25 years ago.  I was on the top of a ladder at the training tower when it went down.
  "They told my wife that if I lasted 72 hours, I'd make it.  Well, I was young and strong and I made it.  And my wife doesn't worry--at least not as much--any more.
 "She called yesterday when she heard what had happened.  She knew it was one of my men, and how if affected us.
  "Taylor was a strong man too, in top physical condition. And he was still pretty young.  But his luck just ran out on him."
  "Taylor, 34, was one of the best liked and most respected men in Task Force 60, according to firefighter Mike Treasure.
  "He was gun ho--an attribute a lot of good firemen have," Treasure said.
  Mike Burns, one of the captains at the station, pointed to the hook-and-ladder truck-- the biggest vehicle in the Task Force 60 fleet.
  "Taylor was a leader, and that was his rig.'  Burns said. "He drove it.  He took care of it.  He knew how to run ever piece of equipment on it."
  Taylor as using a chainsaw from the truck to cut a hole through the roof and ventilate the fire when the wooden timbers under him began to collapse.
  Despite the efforts of the others, Taylor was dragged to his death.
  Capt. Michael Reagan and firefighter Burton Sander, who had been standing near him, managed to crawl to the edge of the roof, where they clung for several moments before falling 20 feet to the pavement below.  Both men suffered serious injuries.
 "Reagan, Sander, Taylor--the whole crew was experienced, the kind of men I'd go with anywhere," Burns said.
  Barrett agreed.
  "In this business you need someone to cover your ass." he said.  With Taylor around, you never had to worry.
  "And he as a hell of a nice guy."
  Terry Waters, a firefighter who had known Taylor well, said Taylor "had had his problems-his first marriage broke up-but he cold smile, even at the bad times..
 "Then he married another girl-and they were good for each other."
 "You know, all of us here are really close,"  Martin O'Brian, another captain at the station said.  "Like Tom, we like to do thing together.
  "Someone will say, 'Lets have a party.' The shift that's on duty is out of luck, but the rest of us will be there, along with our wives."
  Barrett said that even though Taylor is gone, this closeness to his family will remain
  "The guys form 60 will help in any way they can," Barrett said.  "Tom had been painting his house.  The guys here will finish that up for him."
  The group around the kitchen table broke up after a few more minutes, and Barrett led the way upstairs.
  At one end of the second floor is the large dormitory room where the firefighters sleep, their canvas pants folded over rubber boots so the men can leap into them and down the stainless steel poles to the waiting trucks in a single motion.
  At the other end of the floor, past the tiled washrooms and lavatories, is the cluster of lockers where each man keeps his gear.
  'It Was Rough'
  "When they got back form the fire yesterday, somebody had to come up here and fold up Taylor's bedding, close up his locker," Barrett said.  "It was rough."
  "It's hard to talk about it," Waters said.
  "But I love being a fireman, and I know Tom did too.
"He as a very happy man."

-- --

  Memorial services for Taylor will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. David's Episcopal Church, 11605 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.
  There will be no graveside ceremonies, a Fire Department spokesman said.

By Eric Malnic, Los Angeles Times, January 30, 1981

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