Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

                             Thursday, 31 January 2008

Family, Friends, Co-Workers Remember
Beloved Firefighter

Written by MARIANNE LOVE   

Thomas G. Taylor was taken 27 Years Ago in horrific arson blaze

Brian Humphreys, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department, refuses to utter the name of a man convicted of arson in 1981 that took the life of his fallen brother, apparatus operator Thomas G. Taylor.

He simply refers to the arsonist as the "Murderer."

"That scum of a person's name doesn't deserve to pass my lips," Humphreys said on Monday following the unveiling of a plaque honoring Taylor, 27 years after he died from burns that he sustained when the roof he was standing on collapsed, killing him and injuring eight other firefighters. "He left a son an orphan. I know the family personally. The murderer is a coward."

About 60 people attended the unveiling on Monday of two memorials erected at the 5300 Lankershim Blvd. location in Taylor's honor. His son and his two young children who never got to met their grandfather were there with other friends and family. Many of those who attended were firefighters who fought the blaze.

For some perhaps it was a chance to help bring the horrific incident to rest. Taylor, 34, responded to a predawn blaze at Cugee's Restaurant in North Hollywood on Jan. 28, 1981. The roof of the coffee shop where Taylor had been standing collapsed without warning, fire officials said at the time.

News reports indicated that three other men clung to the roof 20 feet above the street before one was pulled to safety and two others fell.

Those who fell were fireman Burton E. Sander, whose left arm was broken, and Fire Capt. Michael Reagan, who suffered back injuries and severe burns on his hands, face and legs.

The roof was said to collapse due to poor design standards. At the time of the incident the Los Angeles Times reported that as the roof sagged, dragging Taylor with it, Thomas A. Shrout, one of those on a ladder, reached toward Taylor's outstretched hand.

"Shrout reached down several times to try to grab Taylor, but all he could reach was his fingertips," Asst. Fire Daryl Thompson said later. "Then Taylor disappeared. . . Shrout started to cry."

By that time, Sander and Reagan had managed to pull themselves to the parapet and lower themselves over the edge, dangling by their hands over the street.

Mario Catanio was convicted of murder, arson and fraud in the conspiracy to burn down the financially ailing restaurant.

Catanio is serving a 25 years-to life prison sentence. He was denied parole in November

Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved.