Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Fireman Kenneth E. Rupp
Fire Station 109
Mountain Patrol
Tractor Company
C Platoon
Appointed February 1, 1955
Died March 28, 1971
Cardiac arrest during overhaul of structure fire.
Foothill Blvd. and Sayer St., Sylmar

* * * * * * * * * *

Fireman Kenneth E. Rupp

So I am glad not that my daddy has gone
But that the earth he laughed and live on
was my earth too.
That I had known and loved him,
And that my love I'd shown.
Tears over his departure?
Nay, a smile
that I walked with him a little while.


This is a nice poem by author unknown.
I wish the "Nay, a smile" part were true.
 - - - Cyndi 

While on duty, March 24, 1971, at the Tractor Company quarters, working an assigned shift, Fireman Rupp responded with the other Tractor Company members, at approximately 2331 hours, to a Greater Alarm fire in a Supermarket structure located at the intersection of Foothill Blvd. and Sayer St. in Sylmar.
The Tractor Company members arrived on the scene at approximately 0005 hours, March 25, 1971, and found a large structure (approximately 200' x 250') that had been fully involved with fire, causing a large portion of the heavy beam roof structure to collapse within the walls. Since it became evident that the one tractor and track-laying skiploader, that responded, would not be enough equipment to handle the immense overhaul operation on hand, it was decided that Fireman Rupp and Fireman Costa would begin the operation, while Fireman Duffin returned to quarters and picked up the second tractor.

From approximately 0015 hours until approximately 0100 hours Fireman Rupp operated the tractor within the structure, while at the same time Fireman Costa operated the skiploader outside, in front of the structure.  Both firemen were involved in moving debris and exposing the many confined hot-spots so the involved Fire Company members could extinguish the burning material.

At approximately 0100 hours Fireman Duffin returned with the second tractor and proceeded to assist Fireman Rupp in the overhaul process within the structure.  During this period Fireman Costa was in and out of the structure with the skip-loader, while assisting the tractor operations.  At about 0230 hours a hydraulic line on the skip-loader broke, causing Fireman Costa to remove the skip-loader to a spot where he could repair the damage.  At this time Fireman Rupp stopped his tractor operation and came to Fireman Costa's location to see what mechanical damage had occurred and also to offer his assistance with the repair.  Fireman Rupp stated that he was extremely fatigued and was told by Fireman Costa to take his tractor out of the structure and to go sit down and try to relax.

Fireman Rupp returned to the structure area and continued his work in overhaul operations.  During the next 30 to 40 minutes, Fireman Duffin on 2 or 3 occasions saw that Fireman Rupp would stop his tractor and just sit, holding the right side of his face with his right hand, and then with in a few minutes, resume his operation.  On two separate occasions during this same time period, Captain Robert Wooden, Fire Station 107-C, saw Fireman Rupp stop his operation and sit in a slumped position, almost motion less.  Captain Wooden on both occasions climbed onto the tractor and lightly shook Fireman Rupp while asking , "Are you OK?"  Fireman Rupp stated that he was very tired, but would be O.K.

Sometime around 0305 hours Captain Wooden observed Fireman Rupp stopping his tractor, and during his attempt to climb down he fell, hitting his head on the track and rolled off of the tractor into the debris. A call was made for assistance in getting Fireman Rupp out of the structure and in addition, Battalion Chief Bertonneau radioed the Coldwater Signal Office and requested they dispatch Rescue Ambulance.

Fireman Duffin and Fireman Costa assisted Fireman Rupp back into the tractor seat and moved the tractor out of the debris area, since it was impossible for anyone to carry or assist another member on foot across the debris.  At this time, Fireman Rupp complained of feeling extremely fatigued and spoke very slow with evidence of no musculature control of the right side of his face, causing his speech to be very slurred.

During the beginning overhaul operation all Fire Department members and especially the Tractor Company members noticed some form of refrigeration gas was involved.  The odor was very evident and vapors were noticed to be emanating from the mass of debris.

At approximately 0335 hours Rescue Ambulance 89 transported Fireman Rupp to Valley Hospital where he was examined, given an EKG and subsequently, at approximately 0700 hours brain surgery was performed in an attempt to overcome what was diagnosed to be a cerebral hemorrhage.

Fireman Rupp is presently at Valley Hospital in an Intensive Care Unit in very critical, unconscious condition. 

                     LAFD Tractor Company

Copyright 2006 All Rights Reserved.