The End of Diving Operations

By Stanley E. Halfhill

    Last week saw the closing of one of the most interesting chapters in the annals of the Los Angeles Fire Department. We refer to the ending of diving operations at Fire Boat No. 2

    There was no fanfare to mark the end of one of the most fascination and dangerous professions that firemen have ever engaged in. The supply man was ordered to pick up all diving equipment at Boat 2 and haul it to the store room. Into the truck went the heavy Morris Pump, the diving ladder, the light air pumps and shallow water diving suits, the life lines; the helmets and weight belts, the heavy shoes (weight per pair, 36 pounds), the signal lines and telephone sets and last but not least, the chest containing the deep-sea diving suits and equipment. All were dumped helter-skelter into the supply truck by the men who had handled them many times and we failed to see that they were sorry to see them go.

    Diving had been a tough chore.

    Since commissioning in October, 1925, Boat 2 had responded to nearly 50 alarms which called for use of diving equipment. Close to a dozen automobiles had been brought to the surface by the Fire Boat crew. From these cars, most of which went overboard at night and in heavy fog, many bodies were recovered. Also bodies were recovered from the scenes of accidents where autos were not involved. These victims were men, women and children of all ages. Some bodies have been recovered by the use of the Scully Drag.

    No victim was ever brought to the surface alive because of the time necessary to reach the scene of operations and to dress the diver and get him to the bottom.

    The original divers on Boat 2 were Ervin J. Cody, Robert E. Brown, Leo J. Domas and John J. Planagan. All had some experience in the navy but only Cody had training and diving experience such as that given by the Navy in the Diving School at Newport, Rhode Island. He has the Navy diving certificate and had much experience before coming on the department.

    Members of the Boat crew who made good amateur divers were Herbert E. Dikeman, Hjalmar Johnson, Claud Hollister, William Cody, Fletcher West, Warner Lawerence.

    These men had many interesting experiences during the over fifteen years that the diving equipment was on the Boat. Many are the hair-raising moments that they had down where there is "mud at six fathoms" on the floor of the harbor. But they won't talk--most of them. They never saved any lives or property, in risking their own, but they were a game bunch.

    So ends the saga of diving at Fire Boat 2.

This article appeared in the April 15, 1941 issue of THE GRAPE VINE.


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