Los Angeles Fire Department
In Memory of
Captain I Joseph C. Dupee
Engine Company 57
Appointed April 12, 1981
Died March 8, 1998
Trapped in building
Pacific Bird and Supply Company.
5972 Western Avenue
* * * * * * * * * *
On March 8, 1998, Captain I Joseph C. Dupee was killed in the line of duty at a major emergency structure fire at 5972 S. Western Avenue. Captain Dupee was assigned to Engine 57, which was involved in interior firefighting operations at the time of his death. The structure was 110 feet long and 59 feet wide with a conventional trussed arch roof. The business manufactured pet food products and the building was not sprinklered.
A first alarm assignment consisting of Task Force 66, Rescue 866, Engine 57, Engine 46, Light Force 33, Engine 34, and Battalion 13 (32 members), was dispatched to a reported structure fire at approximately 02:20 hours. Engine 33 added themselves to the assignment. Both Task Force 66 and Task Force 33 responded wit then members.
Task Force 66 was first on scene at approximately 02:22 hours and reported
"...light smoke showing from a one story commercial
building...". A ventilation team from Truck 66 went to the roof via a
35 foot extension ladder.
Engine 57 turned right (South), once inside the manufacturing area, located a small amount of fire in the mezzanine area. However, they were unable to effectively reach the seat of the fire. Engine 66 and Engine 46 advanced their lines 30 to 40 feet inside the building but found no fire. Engine 57's Engineer stayed in the hall area and helped advance the hose line to his company. Conditions inside the building continued to deteriorate and once SCBA alarms began to activate, companies independently began to withdraw. This was approximately 10 to 12 minutes after the first company entered the structure.
Engine 33 found the use of 10 foot pike poles to be ineffective. This, combined with the deteriorating conditions, prompted the Captain to order a retreat to the outside to obtain their own hose line. Due to zero visibility, they had to follow existing hose lines to find their way out. Once outside, they realized their Hydrant member had become separated, and had not made it out. The hydrant person form Engine 33, who had become disoriented and in fear for his life, activated his emergency trigger. Engine 33's Captain obtained a handi-light form Engine 57. The Captain, while low on air, re-entered the structure an found the missing member approximately fifteen feet inside the manufacture area. He led the member out to safety. The next company to exit were the three members of Engine 46, then the three members of Engine 66, and finally the two members form Engine 57. During this time, Captain Dupee became separated from his crew and remained inside the building. At approximately the same time, companies were ordered out of the structure and off the roof by the I.C.
Additional units were requested from OCD as the fire grew. At approximately 02:37 hours, the company designate for command post support was diverted to Rapid Intervention as they arrived on scene. At approximately 02:38 hours, the Division II Commander arrived on scene, without a Staff Assistant, and assumed command. During this incident the command post experienced some significant communications problems., both human and technical. Communication on the command channel (channel 11), was negatively impacted between Chief Officers and the command post. Radio malfunction and limited Command Post staffing have been identified as factors in this incident. At approximately 02:47 hours, the on-call Deputy Department Commander arrived on scene.
As the fire continued to escalate, the command post and several companies on scene became convinced that a member form Engine 33 was missing.
This delayed the realization that Engine 57's Captain was also missing, which took several minutes to be resolved. Several members reported Captain Dupee communicated on the Tactical Channel. Further investigation is necessary to determine the nature of his communication. Captain Dupee did not activate the emergency trigger on his radio. A member from Engine 15 inadvertently activated his radio's emergency trigger at approximately 2:42 hours.
At approximately 2:57 hours, the I.C. notified O.C.D. of a RED ALERT condition.
At approximately 2:58 hours, Captain Dupee was found by the Rapid Intervention Company with his PAL devise sounding. The Rapid Intervention Company removed Captain Dupee through the rear of the building. Medical treatment including C.P.R. was initiated and the was transported by Rescue Ambulance 66 to Daniel Freeman Hospital. Captain Dupee was pronounced dead at the hospital.
LAFD REPORT, March 13, 1998
L.A. Firefighter Killed in Blaze
Tragedy: Roof of factory collapses on Capt.
Joseph Dupee. Death is departments first in 14 years.
By NICHOLAS RICCARDI
and DANIEL YI
TIMES STAFF WRITERS
A veteran Los Angeles fire captain who had just ordered his crew out of a blazing South-Central industrial building died Sunday after the roof caved in, trapping him in the smoky inferno, officials said. It was the departments first fatality in 14 years.
Joseph C. Dupee, 38, who friends said had wanted to be a firefighter since elementary school, had just celebrated the birth of his second son 10 days ago, Capt. Steve Ruda said. None of the other 125 firefighters on the scene of the predawn blaze were seriously injured.
It shows the dedication Capt. Dupee had. He directed his crew to safety, even to the point that he sacrificed his own life. Ruda said.
Flags flew at half-staff in the 102 Los Angeles fire stations as Dupees colleagues remembered him as the epitome of what a firefighter should be.
His job is to make sure his guys go home tomorrow. said Capt. Mark Saxelby, a childhood friend of Dupee. Joe did his job. His guys went home.
Dupees engine was one of 25 that responded to the 2:22 a.m. fire at the single-story Pacific Bird & Supply building in the Hyde Park district of South-Central. Dupees was one of three crews ordered to enter the building to try to knock down the fire at its source, Ruda said.
Once inside the building at Western and 60th Street, however, the crews were engulfed in smoke. You couldnt even see your hand in front of your face, Ruda said. Dupee and another captain decided that the situation was too dangerous and ordered their crews out.
But before Dupee could escape, the roof caved in, apparently knocking off his face mask
and sending him crashing to the ground, Ruda said.
Outside, the firefighters realized that Dupee was still inside and launched a full-scale rescue effort, Ruda said. They kept their radio frequencies clear so they could hear if Dupee radioed for help, but they head nothing.
An emergency rescue team tried to enter through the front door, but the collapsed roof blocked their path. The team circled to the rear of the building and found Dupee on the floor 40 feet inside, severely burned and in respiratory arrest.
Firefighters pulled Dupee outside and began CPR, Ruda said. Dupee was rushed to Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:32 a.m. two minutes after his fellow firefighters finally extinguished the blaze.
The building, which houses a pet food factory, was unoccupied, but firefighters went inside because they have a duty to try to preserve property, Ruda said. He added that in this case the best chance of doing that was to go directly to the fires source.
Its always hard for firefighters to trade a life for a building, he said. A firefighter will trade a life for a life any time. Certainly, to trade a life for a building, people might questions that. But thats the sort of dedication Los Angeles city firefighters have.
Although Fire Department officials said the cause of the blaze was as yet unknown, they summoned arson investigators and have listed the death as a homicide. Investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were also on the scene Sunday.
The last Los Angeles city firefighter to perish in the line of duty died Dec. 4, 1984, fighting a restaurant blaze near Los Angeles International Airport, Ruda said. Weve been blessed by not having more fatalities, he said, though weve had some near misses.
In 1994, a national firefighters union found that firefighting was the most dangerous job in America, with more than 40% of firefighters suffering duty-related injuries or death in 1993.
And although the Los Angeles City Fire Department went 14 years without a fatality, a county firefighters death in a December 1997 blaze underscored the danger of the work.
All of us know in the deepest part of our heart that this is a daily
possibility, Ruda said.
For that reason, firefighters have established a Widows and Orphans fund to collect contributions for families such as Dupees. Contributions can be sent to the fund at 2900 W. Temple St., Los Angeles 90012.
Joseph Dupee had dreamed of fighting fires since he was a child, said Saxelby, who grew up with Dupee in Simi Valley.
Immediately after graduating from Simi Valley High School, Dupee became a volunteer with the Venture County Fire Department. He moved to Los Angeles to join the city department.
Dupee served four years at Station 26 on Western Avenue, just north of the Santa Monica Freeway. Co-workers there remembered him as a meticulous, outgoing firefighter who boosted morale with his incessant pranks, such as balancing cups of water on lockers so firefighters would get soaked when they got their gear.
He was quite the character around the station, Capt. Andrew Fox recalled.
An accomplished driver, Dupee would needle co-workers about their road skills. They would tease back about what they said was Dupees decidedly mediocre cooking. But underneath it all, Dupee was a serious man, his co-workers said. He neither drank nor smoked and was deeply religious, taking time off to go to Bible study.
Dupee also worked in his spare time as an electrician so his wife, Julie, could be a full-time homemaker. He wanted to be the best family man he could be, Firefighter Steven Wynne said.
In 1996, Dupee passed the captains exam and was promoted-almost at the same time that he married, colleagues said.
The Dupees first son was born, and Dupee was transferred to Station 57 on Vermont Avenue and 79th Street, one of the busiest stations in the city, where Ruda said Dupee gained a reputation as a highly responsible and dedicated manager.
He liked working down here, Saxelby said. Working here, being a fireman in the 57th, every day you go home knowing youve made a difference in someones life...And he liked that.
Ten days ago, Dupees wife gave birth to their second boy, and on Sunday, a blue wooden stork to announce the event still decorated the outside of their new home near Santa Clarita. There, neighbors said, Dupee was a fixture, wheeling his elder son around in a wagon almost daily.
He was just a role model, a real gentleman and a good father, said one neighbor, a Los Angeles firefighter who declined to give his name. You cant have a worse scenario.
Another firefighter, Stephen Perez said he spoke with Dupee on Friday night. It was just a usual, quiet chat about family, Perez said. The next day hes gone, Perez said.
Times staff writer Jeff Leeds
Los Angeles Times--March 9, 1998
Fatal South-Central Fire
Tragedy: Trust fund is
established for children of
captain killed in factory
By NICHOLAS RICCARDI
TIMES STAFF WRITER
As local and federal arson investigators sifted through the ashes of a South-Central building where a blaze claimed the life of Los Angeles Fire Capt. Joseph C. Dupee, department officials said Monday that they had started a trust fund for Dupee's children, including a newborn son.
Dupee was killed early Sunday after he ordered his crew out of a burning dog food factory but became trapped when the ceiling caved in before he could escape. He was the first Los Angeles city firefighter to die on the job in 14 years.
A 17-year veteran whom colleagues and neighbors described as a dedicated father, Dupee and his wife, Julie, bought a house near Santa Clarita in November, according to property records. Julie Dupee gave birth to their son Caleb about two weeks ago, Capt. Steve Ruda said.
The trust fund has been established on behalf of Caleb and the Dupees' elder son, Lucas, age 2. Contributions may be sent to the Los Angeles Firemen's Credit Union, 1520 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91105.
Ruda said the department is not soliciting donations and warned of con artists posing as firefighters asking for money. "We always have those criminal minds who use this as an opportunity,"he said.
He added that he had spoken with Dupee's wife and that she offered her thanks for the public's support. He said that though she is deeply shaken, he believes that "her Christian faith is helping her cope with the loss of her husband."
Funeral plans are pending, Ruda said.
The joint local-federal investigation into the blaze's cause was continuing, with agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms joining the city Fire Department's arson investigators at the site of the blaze in the Hyde park district of South-Central.
Ruda said the cause remains unknown and that the area is still a potential crime scene.
L.A. Times--March 10, 1998
In his family's own words.
Joseph Charles Dupee, born February 25, 1960 in Burbank,
CA., was one of six children of Anna Shaffer. Joe grew up in Simi
Valley and graduated from Simi Valley High School. As early as 10
years old, Joe began "hanging out" at the fire station and
always knew he wanted to be a firefighter. Fulfilling that childhood
dream, he joined the Ventura County Fire Department in 1977 as a volunteer
Recalling a hero who
This week, one of us got a name, a face, a rank, a family...a life beyond the badge. His life now recognized, but only because it was sacrificed. He gave his life defending the property of a person he did not know, in a city that did not know him. His name was Joseph Dupee. I knew him before you, and I will remember him long after his name wanes in your short-term memory.
Ten mornings a month, Joe rose before the sun, kissed his sleeping family goodbye, and made the drive to his second home. He exercised; he trained himself and his crew. He laughed; he sulked; he handled tedious projects; he read his Bible and spoke about it with others. He shared his opinions at the kitchen table. His brothers and sisters drank thousands of cups of coffee with him, all the while attempting to solve the problems of the world.
And then he would wait. And sometimes they worked harder than you could imagine.
Some of his workdays were spent waiting. Some days his city did not need him as much as other days, but he still waited. If you need Joe for small things--a broken water pipe, a child locked in a car, a pot of beans that cooked just a bit too long--he responded to your call.
Other times you needed him for life threatening emergencies--to rescue you from natural and man-made disasters, from fire, from accidents, from illness, from yourselves--he responded to your call.
You never doubted that Joe would be there for you. You never knew his name and he never asked you to justify your need. He served you because he wanted to help and he loved to help and he loved to help you. You could have stopped giving him pay raises, repairing his station, hiring more firefighters, and he would still be waiting to answer your call.
Joe loved his family, his God, and his country. He was an opinionated prankster who loved to talk, could not cook, and drove too fast behind the wheel of a fire engine. He was a good fire ground officer who worked aggressively at incidents and diligently at his post. He was on my platoon for three years; he will be my brother always. But you did not know him then. You only know him now.
Choose to think of him as a hero in death, and I tell you that he was a hero in life. Use Joe's memory for sadness and I will use it to comfort his family and my brothers and sisters that must continue to wait. Continue pouring out sympathy until it becomes a faint trickle, and I will still be waiting for the next call.
I provide a faceless, nameless service to a community that rarely knows how much they need me. If I am called from a sound sleep to sacrifice my life attempting to save the life or property of someone I do not know, I will do it without regret.
Joe did it. Why wouldn't I?
Copyright 1999 All Rights Reserved.