Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Apparatus Operator Thomas G. Taylor
Truck Company 60
B Platoon
Appointed July 22, 1973
Died January 28, 1981
Died of burns in roof collapse at arson fire.
Cugee's Restaurant
5300 Lankershim Boulevard

* * * * * * * * * *

Apparatus Operator Thomas G. Taylor


  On January 28, 1981, at 3:33 a.m, a full alarm assignment was dispatched to Cugees Restaurant, 5300 Lankershim Boulevard, in the North Hollywood area.
  Firefighters found heavy smoke with some fire showing in the interior of the restaurant.  Because a back draft explosion was a distinct possibility and because the smoke had to be cleared in order to begin a meaningful fire attack, ventilation procedures were begun on the roof.
  Four members of Truck 60 were cutting a hole near the center of the roof when, without warning, it began to sink beneath their feet.  One firefighter described the sensation as similar to standing on the deck of a rapidly listing ship.  As the roof sank, it fell at a steep angle, slowly and agonizingly pulling Apparatus Operator Thomas G. Taylor to his death.
  Firefighters from all over Southern California, including police officers and friends. filled St. Davids Episcopal Church in North Hollywood to overflow.  Nearly 1000 people attended the memorial services.
  "Next to home and family, the Fire Department was his first love.  For him it was more than a job or a career, it was a way of life.  He gave his life while doing what he did best", commented Department Chaplain James Dayen during the services.
  "Courage is that quality that makes the human spirit noble.  Each and every day in cities throughout our country, fire fighters are demonstrating that nobility' stated Chief Gerald.  "It's the nature of our work to risk our lives and everyone in this Department is willing to take that risk one more time" added the Chief.

Roof Falls, Kills Firefighter, Injures 8

Story by

    One firefighter was killed and at least eight others were injured early Wednesday when the roof of a burning restaurant in North Hollywood collapsed.
    The collapse occurred without warning, fire officials said, dragging Thomas G. Taylor to his death as flames licked up into the pre-dawn sky.
    Three other men were left clinging to a parapet 20 feet above the street.  One was pulled to safety on a ladder, but the other two fell to the pavement below.
    The two who fell were fireman Burton E. Sander, whose left arm was broken, and Fire Capt. Michael Reagan, who suffered severe burns on his hands, face and legs and possible back injuries.
    Several other men on the roof--and one on the ladder, who made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to save Taylor--suffered burns, bruises, cuts and sprains before they managed to crawl to safety.
Los Angeles Fire Chief John C. Gerard said the roof collapsed because the design standards in use when the 45-year-old structure was built made it especially vulnerable to fire.
    He said there are "hundreds--maybe thousands--" of such buildings across the city.
    Cugee's Restaurant at 5300 Lankershim Blvd. had been closed for business for several hours when the fire--the cause of which was not determined--was reported at about 3:30 a.m.
    The first firefighters who responded from a station four blocks from the coffee shop saw only a small "red glow" when they peered through the windows, according to Willis Martin, a spokesman for the department."

    Several firefighters placed ladders on the side of the building and climbed to the roof, where they started to cut a hole to ventilate the blaze--standard practice in such fires, according to Chief Gerard.
    "Taylor had started the chainsaw and was beginning to make the cuts when the roof started to go," Sanders said later.
    Mike Meadows, a Times photographer standing on the ground, heard shouts for help and looked up toward the roof.
    "I saw a pair of hands grasping the parapet," he said.  "Then a face appeared.  It was a guy I know--Bud Lawson--and he was in trouble . . .
    "They put up a ladder and turned the hose on him, and someone pulled Bud onto the ladder."
    As the roof sagged, dragging Taylor with it, Thomas A. Shrout, one of those on the 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.
    Firefighters tried to push a ladder within reach, but it was too short>
'Had to Let Go'
    "It was getting hot, "Sander recalled later.  "I tired to hang on but it was just too hot.  I finally had to let go."
    Sander dropped without a sound, followed moments later by Reagan.
    Firefighters and policemen rushed to their aid as the two lay there, Sander's legs tangled in the rungs of the ladder that had been too short to save him.
    Sander was admitted to Riverside Hospital, where his condition was reported to be good.  Reagan was taken to the burn ward at Sherman Oaks Hospital, where he was listed as "serious but stable."
    The others injured included Lawson and Shrout, later treated for burns and smoke inhalation, Alan Masumoto, James R. Beach and Garry J. Ingram, who were treated for bruises, sprains and contusions, and Ronald S. Lydecker, who suffered second-degree burns on his face.
    It took firefighters almost an hour to extinguish the fire, which apparently started in the attic of the restaurant, according to fire officials.  Damage was estimated at $175,000.
    At a press conference, Chief Gerard said the building was constructed about 1935, before stricter building code requirements prompted by the 1933 Long Beach earthquake had taken effect.
    The roof of the unreinforced brick structure was supported by wooden beams nailed into wooden "shingles" wedged between bricks, Gerard said.
    As the fire under the roof heated, the nails weakened and the roof collapsed, the chief said.
    "With all those buildings in the city, there's no way to guarantee it won't happen again," he said.
Will Be Reviewed
    "It's essential to ventilate the roof in combating this kind of fire." he said, but in an effort to avert similar tragedies in the future, "we will continue to examine our procedures, trying to improve them."
    Gerard asked residences not to forget that "Tom Taylor gave his life for your protection and safety."
    Taylor, 34, was married and had two children from a previous marriage, according to department information officer Ray Walker.  His father, George, and brother, Jeff, are also members of the department.
    Taylor was the fourth Los Angeles firefighter to die in the line of duty in the last two years.

Dramatic sequence of photo's showing firefighter's trying to escape from the inferno at the moment of roof collapsing.






Fire Captain Mike Reagan and Firefighter Burt Sander cling desperately to facade of burning restaurant before being forced to let go because of intense heat and falling to ground.  Chief's aide Ronald Lydecker is seen on aerial ladder after his dramatic rescue of Firefighter Bud Lawson. Firefighter Tom Shrout's hand (arrow) is seen reaching for Tom Taylor just before he fell to his death.

Fire Captain Michael Reagan grimaces in pain after he and Firefighter Burton Sander, feet tangled in ladder, fell from facade of burning structure.

Firefighter Bud Lawson is helped away from fire after being rescued from the roof of burning structure.

Fully involved structure after the roof fell and just prior to building collapse.     

Another heroic firefighter is shown among fallen bricks and debris  after pushing fellow firefighter under a cover of a truck.

Firefighters dive for cover under truck as the wall collapses.  

Executive Board
United Firefighters of Los Angeles City
Local 112, I.A.F.F., AFL-CIO

We have just been advised of the tragic event that claimed the life of Firefighter Thomas G. Taylor.  We want you to know that the great loss surrendered by your community is shared by the entire membership of the International Association of Fire Fighters.  We join with you in conveying our sincere condolences to the family of Brother Taylor.

s/John A. Gannon, President
International Association of Fire Fighters







A tearful firefighter consoles Taylor's first wife, Carol Ann, while her nine-year-old son Jason, looks on.








5300 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA

ON 1-28-81

Alan Masumoto, F.S. 60-B
bruised right forearm
Riverside Hospital
treated and released
status:  continue on duty

Thomas A. Shrout, F.S. 60-B
second degree burn to right ear
Riverside Hospital
status:  off duty

James R. Beach, F.S. 60-B
bruised left elbow and right ankle
Riverside Hospital
status:  continue on duty

Ronald S. Leydecker, F.S. 60-B
second degree burn to right temple face
Sherman Oaks Hospital
status:  off duty

Coleman R. Lawson, F.S. 60-B
Smoke inhalation and groin injury
taken to Riverside Hospital
treated and released
present status:  off duty

Burton E. Snader, F.S. 60-B
smoke inhalation; left arm broken
Riverside Hospital
admitted: good condition

Garry J. Ingham, F.S. 90-C, Sod at F.S. 60
twisted left knee
Riverside Hospital
treated and released
present status:  off duty

Michael Reagan, F.S. 60-B
burns on back of legs, face, hands and ears, back injury
Sherman Oaks Hospital
admitted to burn ward
condition:  serious but stable


Chief Engineer John C. Gerard
January 30, 1981

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

The Los Angeles Times
By Eric Malnic
January 30, 1981

Family, Friends, Co-Workers Remember Beloved Firefighter
By Marianne Love
January 31, 2008

Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved.