Firefighter of the Month

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September 2018 Firefighter of the Month: Engineer Jeffery “Jeff” Braff

Fire Station 112 (San Pedro)

Home to Fire Boat No. 2, one of the LAFD’s most powerful apparatus, Fire Station 112 in San Pedro hosts annual visits from local, national and foreign dignitaries. Knowing that the visibility of this station was a reflection of the LAFD, Engineer Jeff Braff took it upon himself to lead the redevelopment of FS 112’s front landscape during his spare time at the station.

“I’ve always tried to treat every station I’ve worked at like it’s my second home,” Braff said. “I’d just re-landscaped my own home and thought with a little work, we could really showcase this station in the right way.”

Braff rallied the support of his crew and lead the way by pulling out water-thirsty plants, re-soiling the grounds and researching new, drought-resistant plants to use. When the time came to purchase new plants, he purchased some with his own funds. He is now designing a drip-system to water each plant directly that will help prevent the water runoff that normal sprinkler systems allow.

This project has been one of the highlights of Braff’s time at FS 112 where he has spent the last three of his 25 years with the LAFD. Graduating from Drill Tower 89 (North Hollywood), he began his career as a firefighter and worked at 10 different stations throughout Los Angeles. During this time he secured his paramedic license and promoted to Engineer before landing at FS 112 in March of 2015. Operating as a dual land/sea response fire station, Braff has the unique opportunity to serve as the Engineer on both the fire engine and Fire Boat No. 2, depending on the rotation.

“As an engineer on the fire engine I’m the one responsible for the maintenance, operation of the pumps and getting the crew to and from an incident safely,” Braff said. “On the fire boat my job is basically the same minus driving to the incident; we have a pilot who takes us out and back.”

When not working on Fire Boat No. 2, FS 112’s fire engine or the front landscape, Braff enjoys spending time with his wife and two children. Both his son and daughter aspire to become members of the LAFD just like their father.

August 2018 Firefighter of the Month: Firefighter Paul Wingate

Crew 3

How does a person know they want to be a firefighter when they grow up? Some say they know at an early age. For others, fate is believed to play a role in their calling. Firefighter Paul Wingate feels it was the latter for him that led to his current position as the Foreman for Crew 3 – the Los Angeles Fire Department’s (LAFD) Volunteer Type II Handcrew.

“This is hands down the best job on the fire department,” Wingate said. “It had to have been destiny that I was given the chance to be in this role with Crew 3. I don’t know how else to explain it.”

Wingate grew up in Fire Station (FS) 66’s district of Southwest LA / Hyde Park. After moving to Santa Clarita with his family when he was 17-years-old, he heard about the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s cadet program and quickly realized being a firefighter was what he wanted to do for a career. On one particular ride-along Wingate responded to a motorhome fire that spread to nearby brush. While assisting his crew, he spotted a green fire engine arrive nearby whose crew began working to contain the fire in the brush. Inquiring who the firefighters in the green engine were, he learned about the U.S. Forest Service’s wildland firefighters.

From that day forward wildland firefighting was engrained in Wingate’s mind. He joined the U.S. Forest Service’s apprentice wildland firefighter program in 1993 and soon after became a hotshot. Starting his career in the Los Padres National Forest’s Monterrey District, he went on to work as a permanent member for the Angeles National Forest from 1994-1999. It was during his time with the Angeles National Forest that Wingate applied to join the LAFD.

“I made a commitment to myself that I was going to pass the LAFD’s entrance exam no matter how long it took,” Wingate said. “I wanted to pass it just to prove to myself that I could, and I did just that.”

Conditionally accepted to the department in 1999,Wingate continued to battle fires across the country with his Forest Service crew. As different steps in the hiring process required him to be present, Wingate attributes fate as the reason he always made it back to complete the next step. In 2000 he proudly put on an LAFD uniform and served at four different stations before completing eight years at FS 94, located in the Crenshaw area.

Besides his regular duties at FS 94 Wingate also served as the advisor for the cadet post located at the station. After discovering how much he enjoyed training young men and women interested in fire service, his wildland firefighting roots lead him to become an instructor for Crew 3. Members of Crew 3 receive wildland classes and hands-on training to support LAFD operations in the areas of: fire prevention (clearing firebreaks, trails and fire roads), assisting with fire suppression at brushfire incidents, and other activities. As Wingate enjoyed his time working with Crew 3 more and more, fate played its final role in Wingate’s story. In 2014 he accepted the role as Crew 3’s Foreman and has since lead the Crew in wildland training and in support of LAFD operations throughout the city.Members of Crew 3 are seen in action working to clear brush and other foliage during the Griffith Park Fire on July 10, 2018. Photo by: Rick McClure.

“I let everyone know at the start that I run this crew like a Type II Handcrew, who are paid,” Wingate said. “When the command staff at a fire see us arrive and they say, ‘There’s Crew 3, they’re here to work,’ that’s when it all pays off.”

Wingate has been with the LAFD for a total of 18 years, including serving as Crew 3’s Foreman for the past four years. He has lead the Crew at notable brush fires like last year’s La Tuna and Creek Fires, and most recently the Griffith Park Fire that sparked on July 10, 2018. When not leading Crew 3 at incidents, training or other activities, he enjoys spending time with his wife, 14-year-old daughter, and 11-year-old son. His main hobby is enjoying his children’s hobbies with them.

 

July 2018 Firefighter of the Month: Captain Cody Weireter

Fire Station 46 – Coliseum Area

It’s not often you grow up seeing your father on the news representing one of the largest fire departments in the country. This was part of Captain I Cody Weireter’s childhood, as he watched his father serve as a Public Information Officer (PIO) in the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD). Little did Capt. Weireter know that over 20 years later, he would be on the news representing the LAFD as a PIO now it is his sons who are at home watching him on TV.

“While serving as the lead PIO during the Skirball Fire last year, I was in an interview that my two boys saw while home with my wife,” Capt. Weireter said. “My four-year-old started yelling ‘daddy’s on TV’ and my one-year-old just couldn’t believe it.“

Born and raised in Van Nuys, Calif., Capt. Weireter grew up in a family with first responders in its blood. Besides his father being an LAFD firefighter, his mother served as a Los Angeles Police Department officer. Realizing his own calling to become involved with public safety at the age of 14, he became an Explorer (now called Cadets) at Post 100. After spending almost every weekend doing ride-alongs and learning more about the fire department, Capt. Weireter knew being a firefighter was his calling. McCormick Ambulance hired him in 2005 as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) where he worked for four years before being accepted into the LAFD. In 2009, Capt. Weireter proudly put on an LAFD uniform following his graduation from Drill Tower 40 (Terminal Island).

“Becoming a firefighter for this department was my goal from the beginning,” Capt. Weireter said. “To have my parents, with their backgrounds, there to see me there wearing my own badge, it’s hard to describe what that meant.”

 ABOVE (1): With a radio in hand,  a young Capt. Weireter rides through a community parade with his father in the LAFD bandwagon. 

After working at fire stations throughout downtown Los Angeles and one in Canoga Park, Capt. Weireter became a staff assistant to the Chief of Battalion 10, which oversees a section of the San Fernando Valley. During this time he became interested in using his public speaking skills for the department as a PIO and registered for a pair of classes, one offered by the Ventura County Fire Department and another by the LAFD. Following his passage of these classes, he became a PIO for the department in 2014. Representing Battalion 10 at small events, Capt. Weireter soon found himself at much larger incidents like a major water-main break on the UCLA campus, the Wharf Fire in San Pedro, and serving as a field PIO during the LA Marathon.

After serving as a staff assistant for Battalion 10 for four years, Capt. Weireter took the captain’s test and was promoted to Captain I in July of 2017. He is currently assigned to Fire Station 46 with a team he describes a a “great crew.” He attributes his success as a captain this past year to them.

“I couldn’t wait to be the one who set the tone for the day for a crew like this,” Capt. Weireter said “Being able to create an environment here at the station feel that allows everyone to feel comfortable, enjoy what they do and go home safe at the end of the day is a mission accomplished for me.”

When not working at Station 46 or in the role of a PIO, Capt. Weireter enjoys spending time with his family and often volunteers to bring the LAFD bandwagon, an original 1931-built Seagrave fire engine, out to community events with his father. This is a legacy he looks forward to continuing on with his family

ABOVE (2): Three generations of the Weireter family are seen as Capt. Weireter’s father, four-year-old son and the Captain himself pose in front of the LAFD bandwagon. Bringing this historic apparatus out to community events has truly become a family affair. 

June 2018 Firefighter of the Month: Firefighter John Goshorn

Fire Station 60 – North Hollywood

Every Tuesday night for the past 19 years Firefighter John Goshorn has sat at the same Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Cadet Program meeting. Beginning in 1999 as a shy 13-year-old who looked up to firefighters; today Goshorn is the one Cadets look up to as he strives to give back to the very program that helped him land his dream job – being an LAFD Firefighter.

“I know it sounds cliché, but I still look at my badge and ask myself if this is real or not,” Goshorn says, now 12 years on the job. “Becoming a firefighter for the LAFD was the equivalent of hitting the lottery for me.”

Born and raised in Sylmar, Calif., Goshorn became interested in the fire service at the age of 9 during a visit to the LA County Fair in 1994. Looking at the fire engines on display up close, he spotted a number of Explorers (now called Cadets) showing the public the details of the equipment and decided then he wanted to become one too. A few years later once he was old enough, Goshorn joined the Explorer program at LAFD Fire Station (FS) 100 (West Van Nuys / Lake Balboa) where for the next seven years he not only attended the four-hour-long, Tuesday night meetings, but also spent every weekend he could doing ride-alongs.

“After spending the whole weekend at the station, sometimes my Mom would have to pick me up Monday morning and take me home to change clothes for school,” Goshorn reflects. “That’s how into the fire department I was and it all paid off in the end.”

In 2003, Goshorn began working for American Medical Response (AMR) as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). After working at AMR for 2 ½ years, he was hired by the LAFD in 2006 and graduated from Drill Tower 40 later that year. As his childhood dream became a reality, Goshorn knew from the start he wanted to give back to the youth program that helped him achieve his goal. Following his two-year probation period in 2008, he returned to the Cadet Post at FS 100 as a volunteer Cadet Post Advisor to teach kids both basic firefighting principles and the LAFD’s core “SPIRIT” values.

Today, Goshorn continues to serve as a volunteer Cadet Post Advisor at Post 89 after assisting with the merger of Posts 100 and 89 into one at FS 89 (North Hollywood). Besides donating his time to the Cadet program, he also utilizes his passion to teach organizations such as the Oxnard Fire Academy, the California Fire Exploring Association and during his duties as a state-certified fire inspector. Outside of fire-related work, John and his wife recently welcomed a son to their family who’s now six months old.

“I take pride in having the kids at my Cadet Post work hard but also have fun doing it,” Goshorn says. “That’s the kind of work ethic I look forward to showing my son once he’s older.”

May 2018 Firefighter of the Month: Engineer Michael “Mike” Flores

Fire Station 80 – Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

 

If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “All good things are circular,” Engineer Michael “Mike” Flores’ story is one that truly shows a full circle. A native Angeleno, Mike’s story with the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) started as a young boy when he saw members from Fire Station 16 race by his family’s house in El Sereno on their way to calls. “Yes, I really was one of those kids that would run to a window at the front of the house to see them go by,” Mike admits with a grin.

Wanting to join the LAFD in any way he could, with the future goal of becoming a firefighter, Mike became an Explorer at Fire Station 2 in 1987. Growing up with a father who was a diesel mechanic, it’s no surprise Mike also became passionate in this field after spending each summer at his father’s shop tinkering with parts. Two years after joining the Explorer program, his next step into the department was becoming a Student Worker in the LAFD’s Supply and Maintenance Division. This led to Mike serving in the division’s test pit where he worked with the division’s Engineer on all types of equipment in the LAFD’s fleet; both ensuring their safety and investigating changes to improve their services.

In September of 1998, Mike finally achieved his goal of becoming a firefighter when he successfully completed his training.  As he went on to work at Stations 94 and 6, he promoted to Engineer in December of 2003 and eventually got a call to return to the test pit as its Engineer – the uniformed position he had served under as a Student Worker some 14 years ago. During his time there, Mike became involved with apparatus specifications, which he is still passionately involved with today.

Moving from the test pit to Fire Stations 73, 104 and occasionally 51, Mike became interested in Station 80, located at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), when the Engineer he worked with as a Student Worker sparked his interest in becoming a certified Aircraft Rescue Firefighter (ARFF). “The learning curve for the ARFF stuff, that was my biggest challenge to coming over here,” Mike admits. “You basically train to work on a horizontal high-rise that can fly.”

 

 

He took on the challenge of becoming ARFF certified, and moved to Station 80 in 2016 when it received two more fire engines, bringing the fleet’s total to six. It should be noted, even before coming to Station 80, Mike was instrumental in the procurement of the six ARFF-tailored fire engines that he currently works on today (see photo above). Over the past two years at Station 80, Mike has taken on roles outside of his normal duties that include: updating of the ARFF manual, teaching driver-operator classes, serving on two National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) committees, and continuing to assist the shops where his story began.

Happily married and currently living in Chatsworth, Mike has been with the LAFD for 19 years and looks forward to continuing his service in the department as one of the very members he grew up watching race past his house in El Sereno.

April 2018 Firefighter of the Month: Firefighter Joseph “Joe” Scamardo

Fire Station 106 – West Hills

 

When you ask Firefighter Joe Scamardo what he’s enjoyed the most over the last 30 years of working in the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), he doesn’t hesitate when he replies: “Starting the cadet program here at Fire Station 106, that’s what I’m proud of the most.” As his smile broadens, he goes on to say, “I didn’t do it to be recognized at the time or down the road . . . I did it to help the kids who started out like me, looking for someone to guide them in the right direction.”

Born and raised in Canoga Park, Scamardo’s interest in medicine began while attending Pierce College. Enrolled in the college’s first-ever Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class, perhaps it was fate that the teachers of this class were none other than LAFD paramedics. Beginning his journey in public safety as an EMT and then paramedic for the Pruner Ambulance Company in Thousand Oaks, he started with the LAFD in 1988 and served as a paramedic for seven years before becoming a firefighter.

After serving at stations throughout the department’s jurisdiction, Scamardo was befriended by a pair of local kids at Fire Station (FS) 106 (where he’s currently assigned) who expressed exuberant interest in the fire service. At that time, Scamardo recalls, having them around his workplace was a struggle without the proper supervisory program in place. Realizing the need for a Cadet program (previously known as Explorer programs) at FS 106, he began to look at other stations’ programs to see which model he might duplicate. Following an extensive amount of research, he eventually decided to base his program’s model, Cadet Post 106, on the department’s drill tower recruit training. Scamardo feels that by using the drill tower as the model for his post’s operations, it in turn helps cadets win “half the battle” should they choose to become firefighters down the road.

The experiences at Cadet Post 106 teach responsibility, teamwork and loyalty, qualities that all workplaces value. Scamardo only asks for one thing in return from his cadets when their time to leave the program has finally come. “Call me when you make it,” he says, “that’s all I want in return from you.”

The LAFD Cadet Program is open for students and young adults between the ages of 14 and 21 and can be repeated at will. The program offers the opportunity to work side-by-side with members of the LAFD to learn the duties and responsibilities of being a firefighter. Members of the LAFD who assist in the program do so voluntarily on their own time.

To learn more about the cadet program, visit: Los Angeles Fire Department Cadet Program

March 2018 Firefighter of the Month: Captain Christopher Winn

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is an all-risk, all-hazard training program for the public. CERT is provided free of charge within the city of Los Angeles to anyone 18 or over. CERT members receive 17 1/2 hours (one day a week for seven weeks) of initial training.

Captain Chris Winn is the current LAFD CERT Commander. He is a native Angeleno and is fully committed to protect the city that he lives in and loves. Recently, at a Board of Fire Commissioners meeting, the LAFD CERT Volunteers were recognized for their countless hours of volunteer work during the 2017 Creek and Skirball brush fires. This wouldn’t have happened without the leadership and coordination of Captain Winn.

Capt. Winn’s first impression of a firefighter was at the age of 9 when a neighbor’s home went up in flames. He couldn’t believe how fast the firetruck showed up and was amazed by the firefighters at work extinguishing the flames. He made his mind up right then and there that he wanted to become a firefighter and help people when he grew up.

After graduating from Santa Monica High School, Capt. Winn enrolled at Cal State Northridge and earned his degree in Political Science and Public Administration. He also enrolled in Fire Science classes at the Santa Barbara Fire Academy and worked as a reserve firefighter for nearly six years in Culver City before being hired by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in 2002.

During his mandatory first year probation, he worked at fire station 75 with what he describes as a “great crew.” He remembers that first assignment was a very busy station where they knocked down large fires and were called out to many horrific car accidents, some of which stay with him to this day. “We ran day and night at that station,” recalls Captain Winn. He also was very happy that on his first four days off, his new wife went into labor and he was able to be there for the birth of his first child.

Three years ago, he was promoted to Captain and started looking for a special duty detail when then Chief Little and Capt. John Ignatczyk encouraged him to apply to CERT. A logistics background with FEMA has helped him thrive in the program where he trains, supervises and manages four instructors and the civilians who complete the CERT training. These civilians help free up fire department resources by aiding in fire patrol in their communities especially during high hazard periods like holidays. In fact, the patrolling done by his teams has made a measurable impact in the area of homeless encampment fires. Prior to his patrols in East Los Angeles, there had been seven or eight brush fires in a short period of time that have now been reduced to zero.

Making a difference in people’s lives is what continues to drive Capt. Winn. He remembers with barely controlled emotions the LAFD showing up when both his parents, first one and then the other, had critical health issues. Their compassion and empathy along with the stellar care his parents received make him very proud to be part of the organization he serves.

Captain Winn has been with the department for 15 1/2 years. He continues to do an outstanding job in his community preparedness efforts within the CERT Program, in addition to responding to large-scale emergencies and coordinating CERT Volunteers. During structure fires, brush fires, wires-down incidents, high-heat days, or adverse weather conditions, Capt. Winn deploys CERT Volunteers to provide rehabilitation, hydration, and general support. These deployments are managed by Captain Winn through his partnership with his volunteers and on-call status through Metro Fire Communications.

If you are interested in CERT training, go to:

http://www.cert-la.com to learn more about the program.

 

February 2018 Firefighters of the Month: Ellery Beltran and Matthew Davis

With a passion for helping people, firefighter Ellery Beltran has served with the LAFD for the past 10 years. Born in Inglewood and raised in Long Beach, he became interested in firefighting during a career day event at his high school. He remembers that fire department spokesperson was very compelling and Beltran was hooked. He went on to attend Long Beach City and El Camino colleges taking courses in fire science and paramedic training, becoming a paramedic in 2006 prior to applying to the LAFD. He has served his entire career as a paramedic at Fire Station 1 with fellow firefighter/paramedic Matthew Davis.

Firefighter Matthew Davis hails from Utah and had a slightly different path before joining the LAFD. He was inspired and mentored by his high school football coach, a former firefighter. Following his advice, Davis received his BA in business administration and worked a variety of jobs before joining a reserve unit as a firefighter and EMT in Mesquite, Nevada. After serving one year in Las Vegas, he was hired by the LAFD in 2006 and has worked at FS 1 for the past eight years.

With 85% of the more than 1,400 daily calls to the LAFD being medically related, the manual skills for saving a life are just one aspect of the job. Beltran and Davis constantly exceed the medical requisites. Because of his willingness to go beyond what is necessary, Beltran readily remembers a teenage girl and her mother involved in a car accident due to the mother’s intoxication. By gaining the girl’s trust, Beltran discovered they were homeless; that the 15 year old girl had not been in school for more than a year and that her mother had been sex-trafficking her to survive. With the girl’s approval, Beltran was able to get her into child protective custody once they arrived at the hospital, saving her twice that day. Davis remembers a first run of the day call from six years ago that a baby was having trouble breathing. Just as he arrived, the baby’s heart stopped. He was able to revive the infant on the way to the ER and with excellent and flawless teamwork, the baby survived. He still receives yearly updates of the boy who is thriving.

Together, on January 10, 2018, Davis and Beltran assisted in rescuing a potential suicide victim who was poised to jump from the overpass bridge at Grand Avenue in downtown LA. The LAPD were on the scene and had appeared to reason with the man who had climbed back over the railing of the bridge. Just when he appeared to cooperate, the man bolted and ran back to the railing. Beltran leapt into action and both he and Davis were able to subdue the potential jumper until the LAPD could restraint him on a gurney, a difficult task due to the mind-altering substance abuse the jumper was on. According to both men – “We were just doing our job.”

We salute both firefighters this month for doing their jobs with excellence, commitment and passion, saving lives every day.

 

January 2018 Firefighter of the Month: Captain Timothy Ramirez

When firefighting is the family business, courage and heroism flood the family genes. Witnessing the bravery and honor of his father and uncle, both of whom were firefighters, Captain Timothy Ramirez knew he wanted to become one too as early as his junior year in high school. However, Ramirez worried about passing the physical exam to become a firefighter because of his need to wear glasses. Always a planner, Ramirez first earned two associate degrees, one for business and the other for fire technology, at Santa Ana Junior college before attending Cal State Fullerton, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree. While his backup plan was suitable, his first passion was to fight fires, so he opted for eye surgery, a much riskier proposition at a time before lasers. His surgery was a success and his journey in fire service began as the fifth member of eight firefighters in his immediate family. In 1994, Ramirez served with the Upland Fire Department for one year before being hired by the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Reflecting upon his career, Captain Ramirez confides that the dangers of firefighting are worthwhile when compared to the personal satisfaction from making a bona fide impact on people and their communities each and every day. When asked for stories that capture what he believes to be the essence of firefighting, the humble Captain repeatedly doesn’t share a story of personal success or his own heroism, but rather a proud account of his platoon members taking ‘fire licking’ to the face in order to pull a man from a flipped, burning vehicle and resuscitating him back to life. The Captain’s self-effacing nature at his rank proves his character is second to none as a serviceman and, more importantly, as a human being.

What stands out most about Captain Ramirez is his relentless commitment to family. Whether it is following in his father’s footsteps to become a firefighter, his unconditional love for his two young daughters or dedication to his platoon, which he aptly considers his family, Captain Ramirez is undoubtedly devoted to those he loves.  After twenty-three years, he says it is slightly easier to handle the horrific situations he sees on a daily basis, but as a father, Ramirez says calls involving children tend to stay with him for awhile.

Captain Ramirez, who is currently Station Commander of Fire Station 35, B Platoon, was not chosen for Firefighter of the Month because of a singular act of heroism, but rather for his tremendous bravery and steadfast leadership. Characteristics that he has put to action daily in all of his assignments over the last 23 years, which include serving as Captain II at the In-Service Training Section’s Program Development and Delivery Unit and supervisor of his platoon for their twenty-four hour shifts. Prior, he served as a Captain I at the Recruit Training Section’s Drill Tower 40.

Through hardship, doubt and fatherhood, the superlative Captain is the true epitome of a dedicated serviceman.

Firefighter Bryce Gutierrez

Bryce Gutierrez

On January 16, 2017, Task Force 33 responded to a structure fire at a bungalow in South Central Los Angeles. Though TF33 had received no initial reports of people trapped in the house, Firefighter Bryce Gutierrez, while conducting forcible entry onto the property, heard screams coming from inside. At that moment, the captain in charge confirmed that four children, ages two, three, five, and seven, were still in the house.

Locked security gates blocked the front entrance, so Gutierrez circled the property and found a rear-bedroom window—the only point of entry not yet consumed by flames.

Quickly he hoisted himself through the window into complete darkness, with thick smoke and zero visibility. Hearing muffled noises in the distance, he called out, but received no response. He then dropped to the ground and, crawling on all fours, began to search for the children.

Amidst the smoke and flames, he found each child, one at a time. Each one had gone unconscious, and as he came across each limp figure, Gutierrez, not knowing whether they were dead or alive, carried them quickly back to the window, passing each body to a waiting firefighter on the other side. He completed these motions until all four children were rescued.

The four children are alive today because of the courageous actions taken by Firefighter Gutierrez. His exceptional service earned him one of the LAFD’s highest honors, the Medal of Merit.