Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Firefighter Brian E. Phillips
Truck Company No. 102 "B" Platoon
April 24, 1979
Fell from aerial during
 ladder pipe operations at arson fire.
Mullin Lumber Company
7151 Lankershim Boulevard
North Hollywood

* * * * * * * * * *

Firefighter Brian E. Phillips


200 NORTH MAIN STREET                     485-6054

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                         APRIL 26, 1979

While fighting a major lumberyard fire on April 25, 1978 at

7151 Lankershim Boulevard, a Los Angeles City Firefighter

suffered fatal injuries when he fell from a Fire Department

aerial ladder.

Brian Phillips, 30 years of age, had been a member of the Los

Angeles City Fire Department for five and one-half years and

was considered a "very reliable, dependable, and willing

worker."  Prior to his appointment as a Firefighter, he was

employed as a Rescue Ambulance Driver for the City of Los

Angeles for five months.

He is survived by his wife Brenda and his stepdaughter

Michelle Lee Cupp.  Brian Phillips' father, Terry Phillips,

serves on the Los Angeles City Fire Department for 26 years

and retired as a Captain in 1967.

The fire at Mullin Lumberyard occurred at approximately

7:39 p.m. causing $750,000 in damages and has been listed

as incendiary.  The cause of the accident is now under


The Los Angeles Herald Examiner                                                               April 26, 1979

Fireman Dies In Blaze at Lumberyard

Herald Examiner photo by Dean Musgrove
Los Angeles firefighters battle a $ 750,000 blaze at the Mullin Lumber Co. in North Hollywood.      

    A $700,000 fire at a North Hollywood lumberyard, which officials said was of "suspicious origin," has taken the life of a 30-year-old firefighter.
    Brian Phillips, a 5-1/2 year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department, was fatally injured when he fell from a 50-foot ladder as he was spraying water on the flames leaping form a building at Mullin Lumber Co, 7151 Lankershim Blvd., last night
    The fire broke out shortly after 7:30 p.m. and city fire officials said a large warehouse shed containing lumber was fully involved and extending to an adjacent 50-by-75-foot office building by the time 17 companies of firefighters arrived at the scene.
    Fire crews were able to beat back the flames and confine them to the warehouse and the rear of the office structure, but it took more than an hour to bring the fire under control, said public service officer Ned Chatfield.
    Chatfield said it had not been determined how Phillips fell from the ladder of the aerial ladder truck.
    Phillips' death came a week before his birthday.  He leaves a a wife and a stepdaughter.

VALLEY NEWS                                              Thursday, April 26, 1979

Firefighter killed in
fall at Valley blaze



A Los Angeles city firefighter died Wednesday night when he fell 75 feet from an aerial ladder truck while fighting a fire at a North Hollywood lumber company.
  Seventeen fire companies with 90 men responded to the blaze which broke out at 7:39 p.m. and spread into an adjacent one story office building, causing an estimated $750,000 damage at the Mullin Lumber Company at 7151 Lankershim Blvd.
  The fireman was atop the ladder spraying water on the burning building when the hose broke loose and "whipped him around" causing him to lose control and fall a witness said.
  The fireman, identified as Brian Phillips, was dead on arrival at Serra Memorial Hospital.
James Wells, a fire department spokesman at the scene said the greater alarm fire was of suspicious origin.  A burglar alarm was triggered before the fire started, Wells said.
  The blaze began in the lumberyard of the 2 1/4 acre lot and spread to the adjacent main building, he said.
  According to witnesses at the scene the injured fireman held onto the hose and then fell to the street below, landing head-first on his helmet.  "He hit the ground hard." said and observer.
  As the man fell, a second fireman on a ladder a few feet away continued shooting water on the building with an identical hose.
  Fire department investigators at the scene were trying to determine what triggered the accident.

   Los Angeles Firefighter

ISSN 0190-7535              Official Publication of United Firefighters Local 112  I.A.F.F.--AFL-CIO
Vol. 18. No. 1                           Los Angeles, California                                  April-May, 1979

City Firefighter Dies at Arson Fire

  On April 25, 1979,firefighter Brian E. Phillips was killed during firefighting operations at the Mullin Lumberyard, 7151 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.  Firefighter Phillips was operating a ladder pipe from the top of an aerial ladder.  The ladder pipe assembly came loose from the aerial ladder and knocked firefighter Phillips from his position.  He fell about 50 feet to the ground.
  Brian Phillips, 30 years of age, had been a member of the Los Angeles City Fire Department for five and one-half years.  Prior to his appointment as firefighter, he was employed as a rescue ambulance driver for the City of Los Angeles for five months.
  He is survived by his wife Brenda and his stepdaughter Michelle Lee Cupp.  Brian Phillips' father, Terry Phillips, served on the Los Angeles City Fire Department for 26 years and retired as a captain in 1967.
  The greater alarm fire occurred at approximately 19:39, causing $750,000. in damages and has been listed as incendiary.  The cause of the accident is now undergoing extensive investigation.

UFLAC Offers $10,000 Reward

  At a press conference held at the Mullin Lumber Company on May 3, 1979, UFLAC President Lyle Hall told a media packed audience that the firefighter's union was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and criminal conviction of the person(s) responsible for the arson fire that took the life of firefighter Brian E. Phillips.
  In addition to President Hall, statements were made by Ezunian Burts, representing Mayor Bradley, Paul Ditzel, member of the Mayor's Task Force on Arson, and other representatives of the city fire departments arson section.
  President Hall explained that an arson fire which results in a death is defined as a first degree murder offense.  Hall further explained that the news media's involvement is of up most importance in the apprehension of the perpetrator's of this crime.


"A Century of Service"

Moments after this photo was taken, Firefighter Brian E. Phillips, 30, of Task Force 102 (right) was killed when the aerial ladder pipe assembly came loose, struck Phillips and knocked him off the ladder during the Mullin Lumber Company arson fire.


By Paul Ditzel
"A Century of Service"
Page 210

  Arson was forcefully brought to the public’s attention when two firefighters were killed while battling incendiary fires which occurred only 17 days apart.  Around 7 p.m., April 25, 1979, two burglars forced entry to the sprawling Mullin Lumber Company, 7151 Lankershim Boulevard at Sherman Way in North Hollywood.  Using metal cutters, they slit a roof vent and wire screening over the main office which contained a safe.  They then lowered themselves inside.  At 7:00 p.m., a burglar alarm from the Mullin yard was received in the office of Morse Signal Devices.  Security officers and police were notified.  Thirteen minutes later, OCD began getting calls of a fire inside the lumber yard and dispatched a larger-than-normal assignment of apparatus, including Task Force 89 and Task Force 102.  First-due Task Force 89 saw the loomup almost immediately upon leaving quarters and radioed for more companies.  Soon, a total of 17 companies were answering the major emergency alarm, as soaring flames fed upon large stacks of finished lumber stored inside a shed immediately north of the office building.

  Truck 89 began aerial ladder pipe operations on Lankershim Boulevard near the fully involved shed.  At the corner of Sherman Way and Lankershim, Truck 102 was spotted and its aerial was raised.  Firefighter Brian E. Phillips climbed the aerial which was extended about 50 feet to position the ladder pipe nozzle where Phillips cold best direct a master stream to attempt to check the northerly spread of the fire.

  Other firefighters, meanwhile, advanced hoselines into the lumber yard and attempted to cut off the spread of flames which now involved lumber stacked outside the shed as well as Mullin’s adjoining retail hardware shop.  Division 3 Commander Dudley A. Sorenson ordered the two ladder pipes to shut down so the powerful streams would not endanger firefighters inside the yard.


  The intense flames, gorging upon an enormous fireload of lumber and other flammables, drove the firefighters back.  Sorenson ordered Trucks 89 and 102 to resume their ladder pipe stream operation.  At 8:27 p.m., about a minute after Sorenson gave the order, a loud clashing of metal against metal was heard above the roaring flames as Truck 102’s ladder pipe assembly came loose, struck Phillips, and knocked him off the ladder. He fell about 50 feet to the street.  Rescue Ambulance 89 rushed Phillips to Serra Memorial Hospital where the 30-year-old firefighter was pronounced dead of head injuries.

  Immediately after Philips’ fall, an eerie silence fell over firefighters and the hundreds of spectators. The fire was finally brought under control 65 minutes after the first alarm.  Arson investigators found the roof vent assembly and detected superficial scrapings, probably from a crowbar, on the dial of the office safe which had not been opened.

  Inspector Jim Daneker arrived with the Mobile Lab. Using a sniffer—a device which can detect the presence of hydrocarbons, such as those found in gasoline Daneker found at least two points of probable ignition. The sniffer detected hydrocarbon vapors on the floor of the office and in the lumber shed.  Arson investigators located witnesses who said they saw two men, both carrying gasoline cans, dash across Sherman Way, enter a car and speed west immediately before the outbreak of flames.

  As the investigation continued, Phillips’ funeral was attended by an extraordinarily large number of firefighters from departments throughout Southern California.  His survivors include his wife, Brenda, and stepdaughter, Michelle Lee Cupp; his mother, Loraine, and father, Terry Phillips, a LAFD captain who had retired from Engine 39 shortly before his son joined the department.

  During a May 3, 1979, news conference amid the lumberyard ruins, Capt. Lyle E. Hall, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, Local 112, announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonists.  Investigators came frustratingly close to obtaining sufficient evidence which would have resulted in those arrests and the probable conviction of the arsonist.  The case remains open.


by Brenda Phillips as told to Tony DiDomenico

  On the night of April 25, 1979, the nightmare every fireman's wife experiences at one time or another, became reality.
  My husband of less than a year, Brian Phillips, was killed while fighting a fire at a lumberyard in North Hollywood.
  Since that evening, just two weeks ago, at this writing, I've found how much Brian was loved and respected by the men he worked with--and the many people whose lives he had touched.
  How does one put into words the heartfelt thanks for the outpouring of sympathy from so many people?  Letters from President Carter, Mayor Bradley, State Fire Marshal Phil Favro, Glendale Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department.  Cards from close friends as well as strangers, and the overwhelming number of uniformed members of the LAFD at Brian's funeral.  Chief Gerard's concern for my daughter and me--and the tenderness and compassion shown by Del Howard and Ray Martin in telling me of Brian's fall that night.  Rudy Concha, Mel Moore and Ken Burton of the Relief Association, in their handling of the funeral arrangements and always being there when I needed them.
  Coming from a firefighting family, Brian knew  that was what he had to do with his life.  His dad, Terry Phillips, retired from the LAFD in 1967 and seven years later Brian joined the Department.
  Although married to a firefighter for only ten months, I feel like a 3 1/2 year veteran.  I met Brian that long ago and loved "the job" as he did.  He had a way of expressing his pride in firefighting that was contagious.  My daughter Michelle Lee idolized him as did every kid in the neighborhood.  Work around the house was somehow put off till "later" when they saw Brian's truck in the driveway.
  "Brian's home", was the magic word for the kids.  The rest of the day was spent on fixing bicycles, transistor radios, electronic games, or just splashing in the pool.  The sympathy card signed by some 30 of those kids is something I'll always treasure---several of them are too young to write their names, but the intent was there.
  Brian's "other family", his buddy firefighters at 102's have been fantastic.  Captains Dave Gehman and Ron Meador, Firefighters Steve Hamilton, Jim Jarvis, Tony Zar, Lynn Spahr and Tom Prang can't seem to do enough for Michelle and me.  Buddies Ken Evanoff,  John Lawrence, and Rick Fox also "adopting' us.
  The memorial service leaflet that was passed out the day of the funeral contained a beautiful prayer for firemen.  I had never seen it before and would like to share it with you.

When I am called to duty, God,
Wherever flames may rage,
Give me strength to save some life
Whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child
Before it is too late
Or save an older person from
The horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout
And quickly and efficiently
To put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling and
To give the best in me,
To Guard my every neighbor and
Protect his property.
And if according to my fate
I am to lose my life,

Please bless with your protecting hand
My children and my wife.

It was how Brian felt about the Fire Department.

The Firemen's Grapevine


The Fire

The Funeral

Memories: Battalion Chief Robert J. MacMillan, LAFD, Retired

Source: Chuck Madderom Collection

Fire Station 102
13200 Burbank Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA


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