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Bill Rosendahl - Council District 11

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, April 04, 2008

An Explosion in Westchester


It started in the two o'clock hour. Driving past Sepulveda Boulevard and La Tijera, I noticed quite a bit of confusion at the intersection. Members of the Fire Department and DWP were scrambling around, blocking cars from moving northbound. Sgt. Friedlander, from Pacific Division, rolled up and took charge of the situation - halting traffic and setting up impromptu barricades with the construction vehicles that happened to be in the area for the Sepulveda beautification project. Though Friedlander was at the epicenter of events, it was quite clear that something bigger was going on. Miki Payne, from the Drollinger Company, came walking from the scene and told me there was an explosion at the bank.

I found my way to the parking lot adjacent to the Ralphs, put on my City Council ID badge, and approached one of the officers who was already blocking off people from even entering through Sepulveda West. He explained to me that an explosion had seriously injured two firefighters and that a helicopter was coming in to take one of them to the hospital while an ambulance was on the way to transport the other. He then took me over to the site of the explosion, which had now been transformed into a command post.


There I saw that without being told, everyone at the command post knew their roles, and they discharged their responsibilities flawlessly, with the police and fire personnel taking the lead in this effort. Even more interesting about this was that with the command post being set up just a short distance from where the explosion took place, the objective seemed to be to have the city staff at the location of the accident, and make sure the curious gathering crowd stayed out of harm's way. What I learned was that one of the two firefighters had lost his life in the line of duty.

Winston Churchill once said that courage is the first of all human qualities, because its the one quality which guarantees all the rest. His declaration was on full display and put to the ultimate test that day. When measuring the effectiveness of our tax dollars, one would be hard pressed to find a better bargain then a crew of people who put themselves in dangerous situations while assuring the safety of total strangers.

Just about 15 minutes earlier, this section of Westchester, just east of Sepulveda, on La Tijera, had been a busy thoroughfare. Now, it was the center of operations. Public Service personnel representing LAPD, LAFD, Airport Police, Highway Patrol, The Gas Company, and DWP had established that section of the neighborhood as their strategic base for assuring the safety of the community.

Yes, it's a job, and it's one that we all voluntarily signed up for. But in the final analysis, it's a job that requires commitment, sacrifice, bravery and a willingness to place the public safety above personal safety.

Firefighter Brent Lovrien was killed in the explosion. Battalion Chief Mileage Peeks lost a member of his command that day. The City of Los Angeles lost one of their bravest, and a family lost a beloved son. As a community, we are all in debt to his act of courage as well as his legacy of public service.

-Mark Antonio Grant
Special Assistant to the Councilmember and Westchester Resident

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