Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Fireman Silvestre Madrid
Engine Company 2
Appointed March 21, 1924
Died April 21, 1932
Collision with auto at
St. Louis Street and 4th Street

* * * * * * * * * *

    In the afternoon of April 10, 1932 Engine Company 2 responded to a structure fire at 452 1/2 South St. Louis Street.  The Stutz Combination Chemical and Hose Wagon was traveling south on St. Louis Street when it was struck in the rear by an eastbound auto driven by Helen Martin.  The impact spun the engine almost completely around and overturned it trapping Acting Captain Silvestre Madrid and the driver, Auto Fireman Alfred H. Dale underneath.  Fireman Walter Dodd ran back to the station for help.  Madrid and Dale were transported to Central Receiving Hospital where Madrid died 11 days later. Madrid was 38 years old.   Dale's pelvic and spinal injuries prevented his return to duty and he received a disability pension.  Helen Martin was found guilty of manslaughter, jailed for six months and ordered to pay for Madrid's funeral expenses. 


    Crushed beneath a fire truck which overturned in an automobile crash, Sylvester Madrid and Alfred H. Dale, city firemen, lay in the Georgia street hospital recently with barely an even chance to live.
    Madrid has a crushed chest, and his companion is suffering from a broken pelvis and internal injuries.
    Walter Dodd, who was riding the rear end of the truck, was hurled to the street with four other firemen, but all escaped with a few cuts and brushes.
    The accident occurred when the men, members of engine company No. 2. were answering an alarm near fourth and St. Louis streets.  At that intersection a heavy sedan, driven by Mrs. Helen Martin, of 342 1/2 South Boyle avenue, crashed broadside into the speeding fire truck, completely overturning it.  Madrid and Dale were pinned beneath the heavy vehicle.  
    Sargeant Russel Smith, who investigated the accident, and Patrolman Michael Markick reported finding a gallon of wine in Mrs. Martin's car.  Charles Martin, said to be the woman's brother-in-law. was arrested and booked on a charge of liquor possession.
    Mrs. Martin was placed under arrest, after Dr. William R. Molony reported at the hospital that she had been drinking.   A third passenger, Mrs. Agnes Jenkins, was released.  Mrs. Martin was charged with transportation of liquor, and with violation of a section of the penal code defining responsibility for injury to others.
    Madrid, a member of the fire department for the last eight years, lives at 463 North Bernal street, Dale's home is at 1171 Spence Street.

The Grape Vine, April 15, 1932


    The funeral services of the late Fireman Sylvestre Madrid, who passed away April 21, 1932 as a result of an accident in the line of duty, were held at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Monday, April 25, 1932.
    Fireman Madrid was born November 26, 1894.  He came to Los Angeles and was appointed a member of the Los Angeles Fire department March 21, 1924.  He was loved by all his comrades and soon made a host of friends.  His untimely death was a great shock to his many friends both in and out of the Department.
    Impressive services were held at the church where Father Reagon paid high tribute to his memory as a fire fighter and to the firemen in their dangerous occupation of saving and protecting lives and property.
    Engine Company No. twenty-four's pump was used as a hearse and conveyed the body to the cemetery.  Here the funeral procession was met by a large delegation of uniformed firemen and the Los Angeles Fire Department Band, who formed an escort to the grave, where the services were held under the auspices of the Los Angeles Firemen's Relief Association.  Chaplain John Y. Cordell officiating.  The setting at the grave was most beautiful with the many floral tributes offered.  The bad played "Nearer My God to Thee"  and taps were sounded by Fireman Newmeyer, a member of the band which visibly affected the mourners and friends present.
    He leaves his wife and daughter, Mary, to mourn his loss.  The Los Angeles Fire Department extend to the bereaved family their sincere sympathy in this hour of sorrow.

He saw his duty ahead;
    He faltered not to count the cost,
In some fair field the living dead
    Shall know the kind of men we lost.
Now as his imagery we scan
    And see him as he often smiled,
In strength a kind of super-man,
    His heart the glad heart of a child.
We pay sad tribute to our dead,
    But surely he must live again
Beyond the mists that lie ahead
    Among the men that died for men.


The Grape Vine, April 15, 1932

Circa 1925
Engine Company No.  2
2127 East First St.

By Bill Goss

  I T was a nice warm Sunday afternoon, the tenth of April, 1932 to be exact, when the men of Engine and Truck 2, B Platoon, stood back and surveyed their handiwork. They had just completed converting their their old single front wall handball court into an up-to-date competitive four-wall court. The energetic instigator of the project had been Silvestre Madrid, a right-handed Class A player, who had the best left hand in the game at that time. The next shift would mark the beginning of some real games at 2s.

  A short and then a long ring on the fire phone dispersed the group and sent them scurrying for their respective rigs. Madrid was acting Captain of the Engine that day, as Captain Humphreys, the company officer, was on a short leave, doing a stretch of sea duty in his capacity of a naval reserve officer. It was a "wagon only" and as Fireman Madrid climbed aboard the big red Stutz hose wagon, he called out: "452 1/2 South St. Louis street" to the auto-fireman, Alfred H. Dale. The rig rolled out of the station headed west on First street for a short block and then south on St. Louis. Down the gentle slope towards Fourth street they rolled, red lights burning and the siren giving out its undulating howl, with Fireman Walter Dodd riding the back end all alone. Fireman Dodd was having a time fastening the snaps on his turnout coat and without paying particular attention he felt the wagon slow as they neared the dangerous corner of Fourth street, when all of a sudden he found himself flying through the air, landing some fifteen to twenty feet from the right. What happened was that Auto Fireman Dale had slowed down for the dangerous and partially blind intersection of Fourth street and St. Louis and seeing no autos close by, proceeded across the intersection. When about half way over the car tracks he noted a fast approaching sedan bearing down on the wagon but despite his efforts to avoid a collision by swerving, the rig was struck on the left side near the rear and spun around until it nearly headed back north on St. Louis and at the same time rolled over on its side and continuing, ended wheels up with Acting Captain Madrid and Autofireman Dale pinned beneath it. Walter Dodd picked himself up and making a quick apprisal of the situation sprinted all the way back to quarters where he informed Captain Bob Rainey of Truck 2 of what had happened. Meanwhile Police Officer Mike Mrakich who had been phoning in from the police box on the corner, and several other people who had been standing nearby watching the big red rig come down the street, all pitched in and managed to get the injured men out from under the overturned wagon. Captain Rainey and his crew arrived about then and quickly summoned an ambulance from the nearby police station, and making Madrid and Dale as comfortable as possible, proceeded to unload and right the wagon.

  Upon arrival at the Receiving Hospital Madrid was diagnosed to have abrasions on the arms and legs, fractures in the chest area, fractured pelvis and internal injuries. Alfred Dale suffered from contusions and abrasions and a fractured pelvis also. For the first few days Silvestre Madrid seemed to progress as satisfactorily as possible, considering his injuries, and then he contracted traumatic pneumonia and despite all the resources of medicine and surgery and constant and careful attention Madrid passed away in the presence of his wife and daughter, at 1:40 p.m., April 21, 1932.

  In the following investigation by the police and the corner's inquest, it was brought out that 2's wagon had been struck by a Stutz sedan driven by a Mrs. Helen Martin who said she had not heard the siren. Amongst the witness who had seen the accident was Jose Supelveda who had the tip of his thumb cut off by the yet turning siren when he attempted to get the overturned engine off the injured men. Mrs. Martin was recommended held for manslaughter, but nothing ever came of the case.

  Autofireman Dale never recovered from the injuries to his pelvis and lower spine and had to leave the department on a disability pension.

  Fireman Madrid was buried from Saint Mary's Catholic church at Fourth and Chicago streets. Internment was in Calvary cemetery and the services were held under the auspices of the Firemen's Relief Association. He was survived by his widow, Mrs. Luz N. Madrid, a daughter, Mary, now a U.S. Navy Wave and a nephew, Max Madrid, a Captain of the Department.

  Silvestre Madrid was born in San Elizardo, Texas, September 26, 1894, and was appointed to the Los Angeles Fire Department March 21, 1924. A quiet, well liked fellow, good sportsman, he has a tremendous enthusiasm for the job and the department. He was a victim of the greatest danger firemen are exposed to daily and the one to which they probably give the least thought.

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