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Firefighters are honored at Dodger Stadium as heroes

September 12, 2009 | 11:09 am

Two firefighters killed while battling a massive fire in the Angeles National Forest were honored as heroes and elite wildfire experts who loved their jobs during a memorial Saturday morning at Dodger Stadium, where thousands of uniformed firefighters from throughout the country gathered.

Fire Capt. Tedmund "Ted" Hall, 47, of San Bernardino County, and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones, 34, of Palmdale, “served with dedication, courage and, during their last alarm, with absolute bravery and selflessness,” Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief John Tripp said at the beginning of the service.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “You are giants in my eyes and in the eyes of all Californians.”

Officials were expecting 15,000 uniformed firefighters; a crowd total was not immediately available. Fire crews came from as far away as New York City and Worcester, Mass., said Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Frank Garrido.

Hall and Quinones were killed Aug. 30 when their truck slipped off a winding dirt road high in the Angeles National Forest. Officials believe the truck might have been overrun by flames from a wildfire, dubbed the Station fire, which has burned 250 square miles and has destroyed more than 80 dwellings.

Now an estimated 81% contained, it is the largest fire in modern Los Angeles County history.

Schwarzenegger praised the firefighters’ courage, noting that most people feel a “primal instinct” to run from danger. Though the incident is still under investigation, officials believe that Hall and Quinones may have ordered dozens of people to seek shelter while they fought through active flames to search for an escape route.

“Their final moments were on duty, standing for us all.… They stayed and they did battle,” Schwarzenegger said.

In addition to scores of dignitaries, including Vice President Joe Biden, members of both firefighters’ families were at the memorial. Schwarzenegger told them: “You served too.”

“You knew as you said goodbye to Ted and Arnie each day that it might be the last time,” Schwarzenegger said.  “And still you supported them.”

Dodger Stadium had taken on a somber tone. Hundreds of red, yellow and green fire trucks cruised under two large American flags hanging from firefighters’ ladders and ringed the stadium. Flags lining the upper deck of the stadium were lowered to half-staff. Home plate was decorated with flowers and framed photos of Hall and Quinones.

"We are blind to the fact that we are all from different agencies," said U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Anthony Powers, who worked frequently with Hall. "We’re all here for the same reason – to support the families and because we all lost somebody.... It’s like losing a family member."

-- Scott Gold reporting from Dodger Stadium

 Photo: Mourners pay their respects to Fire Capt. Tedmund "Ted" Hall, 47, and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones, 34, at a memorial at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times