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Firefighters honor fallen comrades, make progress battling flames

September 4, 2009 | 12:13 pm


A procession for Los Angeles County firefighter Ted Hall, who died Sunday battling the Station fire, passed the fire command post today at Hansen Dam at about 11:30 a.m.

The vehicles -- including police motorcycles, a white hearse and an L.A. County fire engine with the words "All Day. All Night" above the front windshield -- passed the fire camp on Foothill Boulevard on its way from North Hollywood to Victorville.

49068291 The procession passed dozens of sheriff's patrol cars with their lights flashing and alarms silent.

It also passed groups of firefighters in blue, sheriff's deputies in green and a crew of prison inmates working on the fire in orange jump suits. Most stood at attention, removed their hats and saluted as the procession passed and entered the 210 Freeway. 

Hall and comrade Arnie Quinones died together Sunday as they tried to protect others from advancing flames. L.A. County firefighter Michael Ekindjian said he joined the department with Quinones in 2000 and lived with him for four months.

"This is something I never thought I'd have to go through," Ekindjian said moments before the procession passed.

At an early morning memorial service, some firefighters shared memories of Quinones and Hall. More than 1,000 people were present for the 15-minute service, which ended with a prayer.

Kpgnxznc"We're all trying to cope," Mike Bryant, a fire incident commander, said. He said the message of the service was: "Let's put this fire out in the memory of our brothers."

In front of the group were two large wreaths -- one of red carnations and one of white carnations -- surrounding photographs of Hall and Quinones.

Across each photograph was a ribbon with gold lettering that read "In Memory of Our Fallen Brother," and an American flag flew at half staff between the two wreaths.

Nearby, posters were set up for firefighters to write their own messages and tributes.

"God bless you for your ultimate sacrifice. You will be remembered always," one person wrote. "Sorry for your loss. We will keep you in our prayers," a member of the Del Rosa Hotshots wrote. Another note, from someone with the U.S. Forest Service in Maine read: "From coast to coast, we are all brothers."

The Station fire, the largest in L.A. County history, grew to 148,258 acres and was 42% contained this morning.

The main areas of concern remained the fire's eastern edge in the San Gabriel Wilderness and the western side in the Pacoima Canyon area. 

Another incident commander, Mike Dietrich, said that even though firefighters were grieving the loss of the two men, they still had a job to do and were focusing on extinguishing the blaze. He said battling the flames in the Pacoima Canyon area was difficult because of brush that reached heights of 20 feet and steep terrain where firefighters could reach out their hand and touch the slopes they were climbing.

The only current evacuations are six homes near that area along Little Tujunga Canyon Road.

Dietrich said the fire was continuing to spread into the San Gabriel Wilderness on the east, but was staying above communities including Monrovia. He said the area in the San Gabriel Wilderness was one of the main concerns and priorities. The fire continued to burn near the base of Mt. Wilson, a critical communications site in Southern California and also home to an observatory, but Dietrich said the area had not been overrun and that firemen were working to protect the structures.

Overall, Dietrich said "we can see the corner, we'll be turning it shortly."

--Ari B. Bloomekatz at Hansen Dam and Richard Winton

Photos: Firefighters, top, stand at attention and salute the procession along the 210 Freeway escorting the casket of Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Ted Hall, who was killed in the Station fire.  (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times) The procession, middle and bottom, included a white hearse, police motorcycles and an L.A. County fire engine with the words "All Day. All Night" above the front windshield. (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)