Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Fireman James E. Hassan
Engine Company 27
A Platoon
Appointed January 24, 1949
Died December 11, 1958
Roof collapse at fire.
Magic Rug & Cleaning Company
7518 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood

* * * * * * * * * * 

Fireman James E. Hassan

L  O  S    A  N  G  E  L  E  S    E  V  E  N  I  N  G

Flaming Beams Kill Fireman

    Pinned under the flaming beams of a falling roof, a city fireman met agonizing death last night in a $90,000 blaze in West Hollywood.
    Eight other firemen were hurt--one seriously--trying to rescue the victim from the burning interior of the Magic Rug and Cleaning Co. at 7518 Santa Monica Blvd.
   The cause of the fire is still a mystery.
    Dead is James Hassan, 30, a member of Engine Company 27, one of three city units assisting 14 county companies in fighting the blaze.


    Hassan and another city fireman, Gerald D. Baird, 30, were the first to enter the building. They were just inside the door when the roof collapsed, trapping both under burning timbers.
    Other fire fighters were able to free Baird in less than two minutes, but Hassan was dead before they could remove the huge beams.
    Baird suffered a possible broken shoulder and severe head cuts.  He and the other injured were treated at Citizens Emergency Hospital, directly across the street from the cleaning plant.
    Less seriously hurt were seven county firemen--Capt. Roy Hinger, 33;  Terrill E. Rice, 27;  Howard Schultz, 31;  Jackson T. Soffa, 28;  Theodore Jordan, 28;  Albert V. Ilizaliturri, 35;  and Dana Wilson, 28.
    Wilson sprained his back lifting the heavy beams from Hassan.
    Flames from the one-story structure soared hundreds of feet in the air, attracting more than 1000 onlookers to the scene at 9:30 p.m.  Traffic was jammed for more than two hours, seriously hampering fire crews.
    Arson investigators have not yet determined the cause of the spontaneous fire.
    Mac Brainard, a night shift worker in a nearby electronics shop, said he heard "a heavy, rumbling explosion" seconds before fire began pouring through the windows.
    The fire was brought under control in an hour.  Damage was confined to the one building.
    Ironically, Hassan was working only his second shift after returning to duty from a layoff for injuries in another blaze.  He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and a 10-year-old daughter, Lyn.
    Hassan, who had been a city fireman 10 years, lived at 5447 El Verano Ave., Eagle Rock.
    Mrs. Hassan was near collapse, and relatives and Fire Department Chaplain Joseph R. Hoffman spent the night with her.

Los Angeles Mirror News, Friday December 12, 1958

Fireman Killed, 8 Hurt in Rug Plant Blaze

Victim Just Back From Previous Injury
Trapped by Beams as Roof Collapses

    One fireman was killed and eight others injured Thursday night in a spectacular $90,000 fire which destroyed a rug cleaning plant at 7518 Santa Monica Blvd.
    Killed when blazing beams from the falling roof pinned him on the floor of the Magic Rug & Carpet Co. was City Fireman James Hassan, 33, of Engine Company 27.
    Hassan was working only his second shift since his return to duty after injuries received in another fire.  he leaves his widow Elizabeth and a daughter, Lyn, 7 of 5447 El Verano Ave., Eagle Rock.

    Cause Indicated

    Capt. Tom Rehm of the county fire prevention bureau listed a faulty electric refrigerator as a suspected cause. He said an investigation indicated a belt slipped off a pulley, became ignited by friction and dropped into some lint and oil.
    A witness, Mac Brainard, working late in an electronics shop nearby, said a heavy, rumbling explosion preceded the flames which engulfed the structure within minutes.  The Fire Department said such an explosion could have occurred when the flames reached inflammable materials used in the plant.

Fireman Trapped

    Hassan and City Fireman Gerald Baird, 30, were the first to enter the blazing building.  Baird also was trapped by the falling roof but was freed quickly by fellow fireman.  He was taken to Central Receiving Hospital in serious condition.
    County Fireman Dana Wilson, 28, suffered a badly sprained back while helping to free the victims and Capt. Roy Hinger of County Fire Station 8 received a severe cut hand.
    Others treated for minor injuries at Citizens Emergency Hospital and released were County Firemen Terrill E. Rice, 27;  Howard Schultz, 31;  Jackson T. Soffa, 28;  Theodore Jordan, 28, and Albert V. Ilizaliturri, 35.

Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1958

Fire Station 27
1355 North Cahuenga Boulevard

   The Los Angeles Fire Department suffered the loss of a brother fire fighter and good friend at a fire which occurred on December 11, 1958 at 7518 Santa Monica Boulevard.

    Fireman James E. Hassan,E27A, lost his life while in command of his company, pursuing his fire fighting duty in the best traditions of aggressiveness, decisiveness and courage Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1958 for which his Department is well known.

    After penetration of  the building had been made and a working hose line was established in a tenable position, Fireman Hassan, while returning toward the entry for additional hose, was trapped beneath a falling beam.  Fate swung the balance in his duly considered course of action, a phenomenon best understood by fire fighters everywhere who live daily with the element of calculated risk.

    James Hassan, at the age of 33, served the citizens of his native Los Angeles for 10 years with the Fire Department.  His wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter, Lynn Christine, age 7, reside at 5447 El Verano Drive.

    Jim served with the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946.  He is remembered for a number of instances of laudable participation as a fireman, such as his principle role in 1952 in saving the lives of two youths who were stranded on rocks amid dangerously high waters in the Los Angeles River.

    Perhaps the highest tribute of all, James Hassan will be remembered for his convivial engine house participation, his enthusiasm for his job, his ability to win friendships, and all those things which marked him as a definite asset, as a leader or member, to any team of men. 

THE FIREMEN'S GRAPEVINE                                                                      JANUARY 1959

By Ted Aquaro    

On December 11, 1958, City and County fire units were battling a fire in a rug cleaning company located in the Hollywood area when the roof collapsed.  Nine firemen were injure, one fatally. James Hassan and Gerald Baird from Engine 27 were just entering the building when the structure failed, trapping the men under heavy beams.  Seven County firemen were injured in the ensuing rescue attempt that saved Baird.  Jim Hasson suffered fatal injuries.
    At this point the tragedy took an even uglier twist.  A member of the media was able to learn the name of the fatally injured fireman.  This information was relayed to the reporter's television station, and it was broadcast immediately.  The reporter had "scooped" everyone, with no regard for the family.  Elizabeth Hassan, Jim's wife, was watching the late news on television when they announced her husband's name as being the fireman killed at the fire in Hollywood.  The Department Chaplain and the Chief didn't have a chance to get to her first, to break the news and offer support.  She sat all alone, her daughter Lyn sleeping peacefully in the next room, when she heard the news.
    The next morning, seven-year-old Lyn woke to a house full of grieving friends and relatives.  Fire Department Chaplain Joe Hoffman was there, as was as Jim's handball partner and best friend, Bob Mellard.  Bob had rushed from a brush fire in the West Valley to be with the family.  The bonds forged in this tragedy have held through the years;  the crew from old 27's are still very close.  Bob included Lyn in family activities with his own family and has remained close to her and her mom through the years.
    When Lyn learned that there is to be a Fire Department Museum at old Fire Station 27, she decided to donate her mementoes for the project.  Presently some of her fathers' things are being displayed at the Relief Association office.

The Firemen's Grapevine, June 1993


By Chuck Bahme

A real fire-fightin' fiend,
With more than ten years service
Killing fires and saving people.

A lad in early thirties,
Jim agreed to be my driver
When I first became a Chief.

He helped run my Battalion--
Hollywood's nine fire crews
housed in seven stations.

Jim was my friend and Aide.
Attacking burning buildings,
He was my "back-up" eyes and ears.

Compassionate for Blacks,
He loyally supported me
In pursuing fair-play goals.

He was always warmly greeted
By firemen and Dalmatians,
Whenever we'd stop by.

He helped me build gym toys
At White Memorial's school
For "CP" girls and boys.

Honest--Happy-- Handsome--
Mischievous devil too,
But loving to his bonny wife,
And doting to his dainty daughter.

Jim shared my zeal for  Judo.
At nearby gym we'd often stop
And practice making bruises.

He would challenge 
handball champs.
And beat them swiftly, playing 
In his turnout coat and helmet.

Jim was kind and sympathetic
To the hurts and needs of others.

Dressing wounds of injured
Fetching donuts for the firemen
And the kids at burned-out
Seeking help to find some 
For the homeless and distressed.

An apartment house was 
belching smoke
From upper story windows,
Firemen with their hose 
and ladders
Soon had the blaze extinguished.
I then sent  all the 
companies  "home,"
And looked around for Jim.
Entering a small back room,
My hasty search was ended.

There a lovely lady stood,
Naked form neck to feet,
Holding her robe above her hear,
While she slowly turned for Jim.

He examined her unclad body
From toe to dimpled chin.
In astonished vice, 
I quickly asked,
"What are you doing,

"Checking for burns,
" was his reply,
"Her nightgown was aflame.
Cigarette caused the bedding fire,
And she's lucky to be alive!

I told her she'd be less 
With her robe around her face,
While I closely checked her body,
For burns in any place."

"How thoughtful," I said, 
"But She's not--
Why keep her turning round?"
"Just being thorough, Chief," 
he said,
"Don't want to miss a spot!"

Friendly, beyond mere duty,
Kind to women, near and far.
A connoisseur of  female beauty,
Jim was like a movie star.

Driving home from 
conquered  fires,
We'd cruise past "Grauman's" 
on our way,
Heading for the 
Street called  "Vine,"
Jim's roving eye would 
often  stray.

To lovely girls in open cars,
He'd give an invitation,
"How's about a cup of coffee?
Come join us at the station."

And like as not, they'd say, 
"Why not?"
His smile their hearts did sway,
"We've got the time
--you've got  the place,
So you just lead the way!

Of course the firemen 
were delighted
With Jim's fine public relations,
And would have had 
him  Knighted
For his thoughtful invitations.

Madcap clown, at times he was,
His playful, pixie humor
Kept his buddies laughing 
At his crazy, zany, antics.

I'll ne'er forget the time,
'Twas on inspection day,
To fool a rookie fireman,
Jim swapped hats with me.

As we drove up to the station,
The watchman rang the gong,
The firemen came form
For "lineup" and inspection.

Jim stepped forth, as I would do,
With a nod toward the Captain.
Old "Cap" looked and 
saw my  wink,
Then yielded to the gag.

With smart salute, 
which Jim returned.
"Cap" yelled out instantly,
"All present or accounted, SIR!"
With face straight as it could be.

The men were trying not to laugh
At the rookie--"taken in."
As Jim continued down the line,
And finally stopped  at him.

"Don't you know the 
hair-length rule?
Why don't you get it cut?"
"But I'm an actor on days-off,
And directors hate it short."

"By God, you are a fireman now--
Long hair will never do!"
In his sternest tone, 
Jim bellowed out,
"Cut it, or you're through!"

The awed young man stood 
stiff and straight,
And gave a quick reply.
"Yes, Sir, I'll go right now,
There's a barbershop nearby."

Then Jim and I swapped hats again,
His fearsome act was done,
The firemen then all 
laughed out loud,
The rookie joined the fun.

Tireless, and always thoughtful
He often volunteered
To work for other members,
And to be an Acting Captain.

And so it was, that fatal night,
Responding to his last alarm--
As Engine Company Acting Captain--
He was sent outside the City.

When Jim arrived upon the scent,
No County crews were there.
He helped his men lay hose lines to 
The blazing carpet warehouse.
Into the smoking, choking furnace,
With heat intense, 
and rafters burning,
Jim's nozzle spewed its hissing spay
On flaming tongues around him.

Unquenched by spray 
or scalding steam,
The snakes of fire hissed louder,
Consuming floor joists overhead,
Supporting mezzanine.

Heavy carpets soaked with water
Warped the wooden timbers.
With creaky, cracking, 
crunching noise,
The balcony crashed under.

Jim yelled, "Get out!", to men behind,
Shutting down his nozzle.
They dropped the hose and 
scurried back,
Escaping just in time.

But not Jim!

Vulnerable to bashing beam--
No way could he survive.
As his broken helmet told it all--
DEAD--at thirty five!

I wasn't there, but I was called,
And of this fact I'm certain,
Jim bravely fought that final fire
'Till Fate bright down the curtain.

Devastated and despairing,
His death was such a blow,
I dreaded going to his home
To let his family know.

Mournful messenger of sorrow,
I slowly drove to see
A stunned and grieving wife 
and child,
Who'd heard in on TV.

(News reporters, I hear tell,
Had seen Jim's name spelled out
Upon his crushed and broken helmet,
Retrieved from where it fell.)

A roaring, raging, flood broke loose
Within my bursting heart.
Blending with their flowing tears,
I let my rivers start.

In the frequency hereafter--
In this life's afterglow--
I'll bet Jim is teasing devils,
Helping Peter run the show!

For in this new dimension,
Jim's not fighting fire,
But making dates with angels,
And singing in the choir!

After death of Fireman Jim Hassan Chief Charles Bahme sat down and wrote 
this poem to his friend.  Jim was his aide in Battalion 5 and a close personal friend.

Fireman Jim Hassan and Chief Charles Bahme
Battalion 5

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