Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Inspector Robert L. Gillies Jr.
Mountain Patrol
Died January 14, 1962

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Inspector Robert L. Gillies Jr.

Truck Plunges Into Ravine;  Fireman Dies

    One fireman was killed and another seriously injured late Saturday night when their patrol truck roared off a narrow mountain road into a ravine 300 ft. below.
    They were answering a fire call at 1720 San Ysidro Dr. when the accident occurred at 11:54 p.m.
    Robert L. Gillies, 44, of 231 Paseo de Granada, Torrance, was killed.  His partner, Reginald D. Duffin, 36, of 13804 Enadia Way, Van Nuys, was in serious condition at Central Receiving Hospital.

Two-Hour Search

    The men, members of the Los Angeles Mountain Patrol, were riding in a one-ton truck behind another fire engine when they plunged off Summitridge Rd. about 100 ft. south of Oak Pass rd., which is south of Mulholland Dr. in the mountain area north of Beverly Hills.
    Commander Henry C. Sawyer of the Mountain Patrol said the lead fire engine lost sight of the other truck as it rounded a curve in the darkness on the narrow dirt road.
    When the two men failed to arrive at the fire scene, a search was begun.  The mangled truck was found at the bottom of the ravine two hours later.
    Duffin was discovered about 250 ft. down the embankment and Gillies' body about 275 ft. down the gulley.
    The fire alarm was caused by a faulty heating unit which filled a house with smoke, Sawyer said.


Source: Los Angeles Times, January 15, 1962


     Members of the Los Angeles Fire Department mourn the loss of one of their fellow fire fighters, Robert L. Gillies Jr., who lost his life as the result of an accident while responding to an alarm on January 14, 1962.  The accident occurred in the Mountain Patrol area.

    Bob was appointed to the Fire Department on September 23, 1947 and he worked on the "B" shift in the Metropolitan Area (Battalions 1, 4 and 7) until his transfer to the Valley in April of 1959.  On March 10, 1961 he was assigned to the Mountain Patrol Division.  Bob proved to be a definite asset wherever he was assigned, not only for his ability as a fireman but also for his ability to make friends, being a congenial person to work with.

    He was very active in his Masonic Lodge, West Adams Lodge #565, having been elected Senior Warden.

    He is survived by his wife Mary and two children, Robert L. Gillies III and Mary Margaret Gillies.  His family may feel assured that a helping hand is available from the Department or its members whenever the need arises.



  At 11:45 p.m., January 14, 1962, Mountain Patrol and other units were dispatched by the Van Nuys Signal Office to 1720 San Ysidro Drive where a faulty furnace was filling a house with smoke.  Mountain Patrol 2's 1000-gallon tank wagon responded south on Summitridge drive to where it intersects with San Ysidro.  Following the wagon was a Mountain Patrol pickup truck with a booster tank and hose.

  Arriving on San Ysidro, firefighters discovered the pickup truck was missing. After a long search in the darkness, the apparatus was found at the bottom of a deep gully, 100-feet south of Oak Pass Road (High Ridge Drive).  The rig had failed to make a sharp turn at that point and plunged hundreds of feet into the gully.  Mountain Patrolman Reginald D. Duffin, 36, was found, seriously injured , 250-feet down the embankment.  Twenty-five feet beneath him lay the body of Mountain Patrolman Robert L. Gillies, 44.  He was the only patrolman to lose his life in the line of duty.

      A Century Of Service, by Paul Ditzel


Mountain Patrol

    The City of Los Angeles contains over 109 square miles of brush extending from Griffith Park to Topanga Canyon.  Many more miles of brush sprawl beyond the city limits in the adjacent Santa Monica Mountains.  This natural ground cover is naturally impregnated with highly volatile oils and resins to protect it from the sun.  No brush in the world burns as fast especially when preheated by low relative humidity and fanned by seasonal Santa Ana winds.  In December of 1924 Chief Ralph Scott directed the formation of the Mountain Patrol.  Two Water Department buildings were converted into two Mountain Patrol Stations along Mulholland Drive which laced the top of the Santa Monica Mountains.  Patrol 1 was located at Franklin Avenue (Coldwater Canyon) and Patrol 2 was located further west at Sepulveda Canyon (16500 Mulholland Drive).  Additionally, the department built three lookout stations.  The civilians employees of the patrol maintained 115 miles of firebreaks, 75 miles of trails and 29 miles of roadways.  The department members assigned enforced fire coded ordinances, informed the public about fire safety and assisted with fire fighting.  The Mountain Patrol protected the Mountain Fire District until the fall of 1968 when four fully staffed fire stations went into service along Mulholland Drive.


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