Brothers and Sisters,
As we take time to celebrate the Easter Week and give thanks for so many things and why we have hope and a future, let us also take a moment to give thanks and say a prayer for all of our Brothers who were involved in the unfortunate collision between our Monterey Park Engine and the Alhambra Truck, who were responding to a working structure fire in Monterey Park.
This send is a Firefighter internal send with a little more than would normally go out to others, but we wanted to let you know a few things to be extremely proud of and we feel exemplifies who we are and what we do each and every day without hesitation and why you are Professional Craft Trade Unionist’ who are the best of the best in our organizations serving the Public.
This is a bit of a personal account of the day when two responding companies collided and change lives forever in the City of Monterey Park. As we received the news of the accident with involvement of our members (Monterey Park Firefighters) and our partners from Alhambra, Pat Dolan was on engine 5 and was one of the move-up companies responding to the stations that would be out of service for a bit. Pat called me to let me know in advance of what was happening so we could begin to prepare for what would need to be done to support and represent our members. I received that call as I had just exited a very important All Unions Meeting of the Coalition of County Unions, and we held it in Monterey Park at ALADS (Our sheriff Unions building) and I was Northbound on Garfield approaching Emerson. I had just finished talking with Will Pryor about taking streets to get to the 210 instead of the crowded freeways and Will was still at the meeting. I saw the helicopters starting to appear overhead and realized I was going to be on scene in a few blocks by coincidence. I told Pat I would call him back and we began to lay out a plan for our members.
Pat and Dave Lopez and the Executive Board immediately worked to start putting together the various items that would be needed to support the members in the areas of ensuring medical treatment, post-traumatic stress first aid, family support, co-worker support, and Legal Representation were all in place. Lew Currier was on the road already and headed directly over to the area hospital where our members were being treated. The Executive Board coordinated a criminal attorney and administrative attorney to represent the members in the emergency room prior to CHP interrogating them about the accident. This is a critical need for all things going forward with lawsuits and allegations and so forth; all a possibility as we have so painfully learned with a number of incidents in the past. The members and their families were extremely appreciative and relieved for coordination of these items.
What will not be told is the back-story we should all be very proud of and I witnessed some of first hand, having been on scene. All members of both the Alhambra Truck and the our Monterey Park engine, who had just collided and sent one engine half way into a building narrowly missing a light pole, and unfortunately landing in an occupied restaurant. There were numerous patrons who were injured, one critically. The brothers had to recover in an instant from the shock and horror of what had just happened, and despite their own injuries…went straight to work to care for the injured and run a multi-victim incident with limited resources for a while because other units were battling a working structure fire at the same time.
Captain Durosa, Engineer Lima and FF Ayala along with the Alhambra Brothers went to work to save one patrons life…literally, and tend to the injuries of the affected in the most seasoned and professional manner, despite having their own physical injuries and the mental aspect of what had just happened. True Professional Craft Trade Unionists’ who delivered their formal training and expertise to the injured as if master carpenters. They delivered care and handled this incident in a way that we should all take pride in. They did this in the most adverse of imaginable conditions for any of us, and they did it selflessly. A job very well done and not to be taken lightly and I believe to be a shining example of the dedication and commitment that all of us display in our chosen career.
Special thanks to the other responding Fire Fighters and Paramedics from San Marino, LA County (Our Big House of 1014), San Gabriel, Pasadena and LA City. These units responded and helped run the multi-victim incident and in fact took care of treatment and transport of the Firefighters also. LA County USAR even remained on scene to help remove the engine form the structure while stabilizing and minimizing any further damage to the building. While LA City Fire did not respond to the incident, they set up support for the families and coworkers who visited the hospitals where the firefighters were taken for treatment. What an outstanding outpouring of responders and supporters to take care of the incident and the needs afterwards, thank you to all of the Unions and Departments associated with efforts.
Also thank you to Fire Chief Jim Burrell and Fire Chief Osby for doing such a good job in handling the incident, the members, working with the Union to ensure all procedural steps and literal steps to care for our members were put in to place with ease, and also resourced well so we could take care of business in a time of emotional turmoil. There will be many legal and administrative issues to deal with going forward, but we had representation at the hospital in place before the first CHP questions were allowed in what will be an ongoing investigation into the incident. It is hard to think ahead to what may be needed when we are in the instant of an accident like this and of the magnitude of this incident, however it must be considered and dealt with immediately and we accomplished that.
While there will be many things to deal with in the future regarding this incident, I am reminded by these pros; our members and their actions both before the incident and after to remind us all to follow a few simple tasks as if it was religion. Filling out logbooks, morning equipment checkout, maintenance of the rigs, training and education, drilling, wearing of seatbelts and safety gear become critical in situations like this. Also, if you find yourself in a situation like this or any vehicle related incident remember to not make any statements to anyone regarding the accident until you have legal representation at the time of questioning. Just let the CHP officers or Chief Officers know you will make all statements and answer questions once you have representation. This is important because incidents like these will have associated lawsuits that may be civil and potentially could be criminal, but certainly all have potential to be harmful to your job.
In closing, and as we head into the Easter Weekend….take a moment and give thanks for all we have, give thanks for the safety and health of the brothers who were involved in this incident, and reflect on how well these members performed in the heat of battle and chaos and remind ourselves to strive to always be that pro…the Craft Trade Unionist who is expert in his/her field, even in the harshest of conditions.
I am sorry I had to miss the Camps retirement dinner and I will take time to say a few remarks via an e-mail send a little later, but fate took me North on Garfield and landed Local 1014 on scene where the rest of the evening will never be forgotten.