Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

A Long Line of Heroes

    They died 13 years apart. But there are similarities between the deaths of Los Angeles Fire Capt. Joseph Dupee and the last city firefighter to die before him, according to fire officials.
Benjamin Pinel, 29, had been assigned as a firefighter to Engine Co. 54 on Crenshaw Boulevard when he was killed Dec. 4 1984. Dupee, 38, was working as a captain at Engine Co. 57 on nearby South Vermont Avenue when he died last Sunday.
    Pinel was killed near Los Angeles International Airport in an early- morning fire at a restaurant named the Proud Bird. Dupee died in the Hyde Park area in an early-morning fire at a business named Pacific Bird and Supply.
    Pinel was caught in a ball of flame called a flashover as he moved into the restaurant to spray water on the fire. Dupee was caught beneath a collapsing ceiling as he moved his hose crew out of the burning pet-supply building.
    inel was found by fellow firefighters who reentered the blazing structure after a head count showed that one man was unaccounted for. Dupee was found by a special rescue team organized after retreating firefighters realized he was missing.
    Pinel suffered respiratory arrest after his air mask was knocked away. Dupee's cause of death has yet to be disclosed, but his air mask was also knocked off.
    After Pinel's death, city firefighters rallied to the aid of his wife, Carol, and infant daughter, Nicole. Last week, fellow firefighters rushed to assist Dupee's wife, Julie, and their two sons, Lucas, 2, and 3-week old Caleb.
    Fire officials pointed out the similarities in the two deaths. Capt. Stephen Ruda, a Fire Department spokesman, said other deaths involved such things as falling off aerial ladders, tumbling through burning roofs and a traffic accident.
    Pinel's funeral included a procession along Western Avenue and drew more than 1,000 firefighters from at least 28 Southern California fire departments. Dupee's services Saturday attracted more than 2,000 firefighters and included a procession along Vermont Avenue.
In the days after Pinel's death, Firefighter Jon Garcia was honored for entering the burning restaurant three times in attempts to rescue the missing fireman. Garcia found Pinel on the third try and received the Fire Department's highest award, the Medal of Valor.
    In the days after Dupee's death, fire officials took steps to honor him. They disclosed Friday that Dupee has been nominated posthumously for the Medal of Valor for leading four firefighters to safety from a blazing, two-story duplex in South-Central Los Angeles on March 6--just two days before he died.
    Pinel was remembered after his death as a man who loved firefighting. Officials said two of his brothers, Mario Pinel and Mike Pinel, are city firefighters.
    There have been plenty of close calls between the deaths of Pinel and Dupee.
"Its been a matter of the quality of firefighter and officers that we've had no deaths," said Ruda. "That and luck. And God's blessing."


    Los Angeles Times
    Sunday March 15, 1998

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