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A search-and-rescue operation for graffiti-marred Eagle Rock landmark

April 7, 2011 | 12:41 pm

The Los Angeles Fire Department’s search-and-rescue team carried off one of its most unusual operations to date Thursday, aiding not a person, but a rock -- Eagle Rock.

Crewmembers, attached to safety equipment by ropes and harnesses, removed graffiti from the rock that is named for the eagle shapes that look as though they were carved into the massive natural stone.

The formation, which overlooks the community of Eagle Rock, was marred over the winter by graffiti that was visible, like the rock itself, for some distance. The graffiti was dangerously inaccessible, scrawled in a 4-by-8-foot area under a ledge next to a 150-foot drop.

Authorities waited first to see if the winter rains would wash the vandalism away. It faded, but remained.

At that point, some creativity was called for.

“This is a cultural, historical monument, and we want to keep it as clean as possible,” said Rick Coca, a spokesman for Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the area.

An arrangement between the council office and the city fire department turned the graffiti removal project into a training exercise for the department’s search-and-rescue team.

Team members, other city workers and officials reached a flat area at the top of the rock through an adjacent private property and a narrow path. Once there, crews noticed additional graffiti that wasn’t visible from below. Crews made a note to come back later, but will first take pictures of that tagging to add to an evidence database. The database is used to aid in prosecution of vandals who are later apprehended.

The main event involved using sanders to rub out the offending cliff-side lettering. The two firefighters involved also erased some other hard-to-reach scrawls during their two-hour stint. Then, the training continued, with firefighters polishing their rappelling skills on the newly polished landmark.

Getting valuable training in natural terrain “was their impetus for saying yes to begin with -- besides helping us out,” Coca said. “It was good for them, good for us.”


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Photo: Los Angeles City Firefighters Jordan Ross and Christopher Winn of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force  clean graffiti from Eagle Rock on Thursday. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times