Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

L.A. plans large-scale tribute
to three fallen firefighters

PEOPLE: Today’s
procession and service
will honor two who
were good friends and
one who was near retirement.

By Rick Orlov
Los Angles Daily News

LOS ANGELES--Los Angeles will say farewell today to three of its heroes, firefighters who died last week in the line of duty while trying to save the life of a little girl. Services for Apparatus Operator Michael McComb, Firefighter-Paramedic Eric Reiner and Firefighter-Paramedic Michael Butler will begin at the fire stations where they had served. Afterward, fire engines bearing the caskets will lead a procession to the Sprits Arena in downtown Los Angeles, where a memorial ceremony is expected to draw thousands of firefighters from across California. Private funeral services will be held later today. “If that’s any consolation--and I know it’s hard on the families--but they died doing what they wanted, to try to save the life of this little girl, to get her better care,” said Capt. Steve Ruda of the Los Angeles Fire Department. Citizens are invited to attend ceremonies. “I encourage every resident to come show their support by lining the procession,” said Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who will take part in the service. “And, if that’s not possible, to drive with their headlights on.” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Scott Brown said there will be about a dozen representatives of his department at today’s service. “The fire service is a close-knit family and whenever a tragedy like this occurs, firefighters regardless of jurisdiction, come together to honor fallen heroes,” he said. “L.A. city would be here for us, as with any fire agency.” Brown added, “Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones. This should be a reminder to everyone as to how dangerous this profession is.” Saturday, March 28, 1998 L.A. plans large-scale tribute to three fallen firefighters In addition to the Fire Authority, there will be representatives of 12 other fire agencies from Orange County attending. The three men were killed, along with 12-year-old Norma Vides, when the helicopter air ambulance in which they were flying crashed in Griffith Park. The cause of the crash remains under investigation buy the National Transportation Safety Board, which is focusing on why a rear rotor came off. Two other firefighters, including the pilot, remain hospitalized and are not expected to attend the services. At the same time firefighters grieve the loss of one of their own, they said they also are mourning the only civilian to die in the crash. “We did not forget that little girl who died with us,” said Ruda. “Firefighters gave several thousand dollars out of their own pockets to help the family. “We want to help that family out. She is part of our family now,” Ruda said. McComb, who was six months from retirement, was cremated Friday, said Ruda. Firefighters will lay out his turnout coat and uniform at Fire Station 90 at 7921 Woodman Ave. in Van Nuys, during the half-hour service. At the same time, firefighters from Fire Station 81, at 14123 Nordhoff St. in Arleta, will hold a service for Butler and Reiner. Reiner and Butler were close friends, each serving as the other’s best man at their weddings, and Butler was godfather to Reiner’s children, Ruda said. Reiner was going to be the godfather for Butler’s first child, due in five months. After the ceremonies at the fire stations, the firefighter’s caskets will be placed on twin engines and driven in a procession to downtown Los Angeles. The procession will gather at Figueroa Street and Jefferson Boulevard and proceed to the Sports Arena for the service, which will feature remarks by Riordan, Fire Chief William R. Bamattre and other officials. Ruda said the ceremony is especially difficult, coming only two weeks after services for fire Capt. Joseph C. Dupee, who died while battling a fire in South Central Los Angeles. “It’s still like an open wound,” Ruda said. “We haven’t been able to properly mourn Joe Dupee and now we have multiple deaths.” Up to now, the LAFD enjoyed a remarkable safe record. There were no on-duty fatalities for 14 years until Dupee’s death March 8.

Register staff writer Heather Lourie contributed to this report.


   The Orange County Register
    Saturday, March 28, 1998

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