Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Here, Right Here


L.A. CO. F.D. Camp 2
To our brothers Art Ruezga and Chris Herman
who will always live in
our hearts and never be forgotten
August 20th 1993

Two firefighters died in the Glen Allen Fire on August 20th, 1993, in the steep canyon beneath the Altadena Crest Trail. Their colleagues are quoted in this LA Times article.

This memorial stands alongside the trail. If you look carefully, you can see a second cross in the canyon below where you're walking. The memorial is a heart-catching sight. It punctures the solitude hiking can create and makes you realize you're not alone.

The plaque (quoted above) doesn't lie; a couple of those fire station caps on the cross are brand new.

Sure, people have died here. People have died everywhere, we just don't always think about it. That's what a memorial is for.

23 comments:

Book Dragon said...

thank you for reminding us that the news stories have people behind them

Kate said...

This is a very haunting image!

Bellis said...

It always stops me in my tracks when I get to this cross. The deaths of two inexperienced firefighters was such a tragedy. A memorial service attended by many firefighters was held there not long ago, which may be why the caps are new. Your photo is superb - surely the best anyone has ever taken of this place. The lighting's excellent, and the flag is rippling in the breeze. But is the flag a new addition? I don't recall seeing it before.

Petrea Burchard said...

They always do, don't they, Book Dragon? We just don't always think about it that way.

Thanks, Kate. In person, even moreso.

I only read the first couple of pages of this very involved post, Bellis, but it looks like one of the victims was a 13 year veteran. I'm relatively new to this trail, but I can tell you the flag has been there since at least February.

Latino Heritage said...

Thanks for this Petrea. Powerful photo.
My cousin died fighting a fire, he was a young man in camp for breaking the law. The flames overtook him and others that were on detail fighting the fire. I believe he was 16 or 17 when he died.

TheChieftess said...

Very poignant Petrea...I agree Book Dragon...

altadenahiker said...

I'm sure the fire service would like to see this photo. Maybe you should send it to the fire chief who gave us a tour last December.

J+P said...

"If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind …"

—John Donne, Meditation XVII

Petrea Burchard said...

Roberta, that's tragic. Many of these crew people are inmates. They're trained, but it's dangerous work. I remember a crew that survived in the Station Fire, holed up in a building on a mountaintop. Another crew that John and I met during that fire were "troubled" young men, changing their own story lines from bad guy to hero. It seems, though, that 16 or 17 is too young for such work.

Thank you, Chieftess.

Thanks, Hiker. I hadn't thought about it.

J, that's the thing. Thank you. I think another person's death is especially diminishing when that person dies in service to the rest of us.

Susan Campisi said...

Beautiful writing, Petrea. These lines are perfect for the striking image: "The memorial is a heart-catching sight. It punctures the solitude hiking can create and makes you realize you're not alone."

Margaret said...

Sad and interesting.

Steven said...

Hats off to those two brave men. May they never be forgotten.

Petrea Burchard said...

I don't think they'll be forgotten, Steven. Firefighters and Police Officers are tenacious at honoring their fallen ones.

Ms M said...

Very moving post -- your photo and what you've written.

Petrea Burchard said...

Merci, Ms. M.

-K- said...

I'm sort of stunned and speechless right now.

The photo is worthy of the story.

Steve Scauzillo said...

I'd like to hike that trail.

Patrizzi Intergarlictica said...

Dear Petrea,

Thank you for posting this.

Fire in the foothills is a natural and recurrent thing. Firefighters risk everything to save homes built too close to the chaparral. A monument that no one sees but an occasional hiker is of little consolation, even if it is now seen by many.

Altadena friends with a view lost their homes in 1993, and friends lost their homes before that in the late '80s in the Oakland Ridge fire. Those good people formed a support group for each other. When fire came to my door in Lake Arrowhead they came to share with me all of their experience, strength, and hope. People are wonderful like that.

Fire and sadness has layers, lay-downs, flareups, aftermaths...loss. I was grateful when the firefighters said they couldn't save my home due to the absolute raging inferno of the forest canopy surrounding it. It wasn't safe for them. I couldn't bear lives being lost saving my little extravagant encrouchment on wilderness. It was bad enough that many had parished attempting to hold the line at Hwy 18.

Like you, I'll take the magnificent views from a trail from now on, thankyouverymuch.

Bless this soul. May it be comforted by the flight of Cooper Hawk, and in the heart of the coyote forever.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, everyone, for your great comments today.

Patrizzi, yes. Too much building too close to the foothills.
When I saw this memorial I thought I couldn't bear the thought of someone dying to save my home. Yet firefighters take this on knowingly. If you live in town (not up next to the hills) and you have a fire, you call them. The fire may not be as dangerous, but the risks are still there. And they come.

Still, as you said, I'll view my chaparral from the trail as opposed to my kitchen window.

Bless them all.

Marylinn Kelly said...

We lived in Rubio Canyon at the time of that fire...it was brief, compared with others, yet a moment was all it took. Thank you for reminding us and sharing a look at the memorial. Their brethren saved our home and many, many more in October that year. Our heroes.

Petrea Burchard said...

Hi Marylinn, thanks for your comment.

You know, if you drive along the 210 freeway, east or west of Pasadena, you can still see the "line of demarcation" where the Station Fire burned above the cities in the fall of 2009. Above town, things are beginning to get green again amidst the ashes. Below the line, it remained green and lush even after the fire.

The firefighters protect the people and the structures. It's what they have to do. They have to let the forest burn.

Anonymous said...

Directly below that memorial, nestled amonst the homes, is a school that they also saved...

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Anonymous. Many homes, too, I'm sure.