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Friday, July 31, 2009

South Central LA, Compton Structure Fire

Chasing fires and emergencies in South LA and Compton can be challenging at times and some what dangerous. I cover emergencies at night in what I have termed, the "pit" a small staging area at Slauson Ave and Harbor Freeway. Of course in the day time I just can not maneuver in traffic fast enough to get to calls in time for any decent photography work, but at night, when the rats come out to play and feed in the trash, this is the time when some real photo journalism takes place. North south streets like Crenshaw, South Gramercy Place, Normandie, Vermont, Western, South Broadway, Main, Central, Alvarado to Long Beach Bl and all the East West streets from MLK south to Imperial Highway are quickly covered from the "Pit". The strategy is to stay awake well into the witching hour, while being ever vigilant to the radio traffic and get on the road as soon as the alert tones go off. The photos are from a fire in Compton 2 days ago, a parking garage was well involved with fire upon arrival. My strategy:get in, take the images and leave to avoid large crowds that form in projects and beat feet back to the staging area. Just another sleepless night in my fire ground office in South LA.

Thomas David Marovich

Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 6:48PM

Family members, friends and firefighters hold a walking procession from the church to the cemetary at the funeral of Thomas David Marovich Jr. in Hayward, Calif. Photo: Liz Hafalia
From the San Francisco Chronicle:

As a kid, Thomas Marovich Jr. played with toy fire trucks. He channeled his childhood fascination into a firefighting job with the U.S. Forest Service. Whenever he was off duty, he flashed his famous "million-dollar smile" and served as a mentor to young firefighters in training.

That was how Marovich, 20, was remembered today at an emotional Mass in Hayward, where he grew up.

Marovich died July 21 after falling from a helicopter during a training exercise in Humboldt County.

More than 500 relatives, friends and fellow firefighters, their badges wrapped in black mourning bands, gathered at St. Clement Church in Hayward to honor a man described as selfless. Everybody called Marovich "T.J." for "Tom Jr."

After the service, mourners walked along Mission Boulevard as an honor guard, motorcycle officers and fire engines escorted Marovich's casket to nearby Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, where he was buried.

Marovich fell 200 feet from a Bell 212 helicopter at the Backbone Helibase in Willow Creek, authorities said. The same helicopter performed a fly-by at the cemetery.

Marovich was a second-year firefighter apprentice with the Forest Service at the Modoc National Forest. He had been practicing rappelling maneuvers as part of training that is required every two weeks.

Witnesses on board the helicopter reported problems with the harness he had been using, relatives said. His death remains under investigation, Forest Service spokesman John Heil said.

Through tears, Christy Marovich, 21, told those in attendance that she was consumed by nightmares about her brother falling from the helicopter. As firefighters in the audience wept, she said she had images of him simply bouncing back up, as if he were on a trampoline.

She said her brother protected her against people who broke her heart and served as an inspiration to young people who wanted to become firefighters. "You did not become a hero on the day you died," she said. "You were a hero in the days you lived."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Metro Link Accident

Los Angeles CA: The Los Angeles City Fire Department responded to a report of a Metro Link train vs. an automobile at Pierce St and San Fernando Road in LAFD Station 98’s first in district. Upon arrival it was reported that one passenger in the over turned vehicle had sustained fatal injuries and was still trapped. 23 passengers aboard the Metro Link were checked for injuries. All passengers were able to continue via bus to their destinations. The scene was turned over to LAPD traffic and accident investigators. LAFD Task Force 98 extricated the patient using hydraulic power tools.

Small Plane Crash

It has been an active month for me covering emergencies across Los Angeles County. On July 17, 2009 a small plane carrying 2 passengers crashed at Triumph and Warmuth Streets in the Sand Canyon area. Los Angeles County Fire Department had multiple calls of the crash and sent a full assignment. On arrival both passengers were pronounced deceased and that there was no fire problem. The scene was turned over to Los Angeles County Sheriffs Deputy's and aviation experts to investigate the crash.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Taking The Heat

Somebody asked me, "Why do you put yourself in harms way to bring the readers of Southern California Fire Journal those amazing images?" The answer is simple, I love to work outside: my truck is my fire-ground office, complete with high end lap top, air card, cell phone,camera and HD video gear. I don't need all the comforts of an office and I love to be on the fire line where the action is taking place. You can not take great pictures from 100 miles away so I am constantly on the go. Well to be honest, this summer has been very warm and it has been punishing me on the line, but I would have it no other way.

Air Squads

The primary mission of a firefighter is to save lives, protect property, protect the environment and to prevent needless suffering. There is never a shortage of heroic actions that I capture in the field: paramedics pulling people out of twisted wreckage, firefighters entering burning buildings and of course the helicopter calvary landing all over the Antelope Valley to take critically injured people to truama centers. Every day presents itself with a new set of challenges for emergency responders, so I always look forward to a new day.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lightning Bust Mojave

It was a very long day, starting out of Palmdale at 08:30 am and getting back in at midnight to upload the images from today's chase across the Mojave Desert. Dry lightning came from the south as I crossed Highway 40 at Kel-Baker Rd and into the Mojave preserve. I proceeded east past the Kelso Depot and east onto Morning Star Mine RD all the way to Nipton RD. I hit several thunder cells with some nice brilliant bolts of lightning. The thunder rumbled across the valley as I proceeded east. A wonderful day in the desert. Never a dull moment from start to finish.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dry Lightning Bust for Friday

I have a hobby of chasing lightning busts across CA and AZ deserts, the scenery is amazing. Tomorrow I have a chase planned in the desert. Today working on www.socalfirejournal.com and networking. Foot patrol tonight from 4-11pm, keeping the drug dealers at bay and out of the City Parks and hopefully keeping the stuff away from children. It will be hotter than blazes this weekend, so stay cool! Off to work I go!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fire Activity, ANF

Yesterday there was fire activity near Violin Canyon on the border of the Angeles National Forest and SRA wildlands of Los Angeles County. A wildfire was reported in Oak Valley and quickly grew to 10 acres. There was little access to the fire since the Incident Commander was busy setting up his command post at the mouth of the wash, so I parked my truck and went for a long and arduous hike in triple digit temperatures. This fire season is pushing me hard with 6 greater alarm wildfires in various parts of the County. It makes it difficult to cover the stories since you never know what portion of the County a wildfire may be reported in. Yesterday it was Castaic and Claremont, complete opposite ends of the County; the day before 90th street west and Ave G in Antelope Acres, a few days before, the Getty Center area above the 405 freeway, no rhyme, rhythm nor reason to the pattern, just hot, wind driven wildfires pushing up steep canyon hillsides with dense black smoke. Hiking into the fire left me short of breath, wheezing and hacking as the thick pall of the smoke once again attacked my lungs. Dennis Mackey, a USFS Engine Captain saw that I can not move as fast as I once could to cover the stories, my back is worn out and my lungs and heart, well after 28 years of this stuff, trying to keep up with the 20 year olds on the fire crews, you be the judge... So it goes, respond, don safety gear, hike, copmose, set f-stop, ISO, focus, and shoot while trying to breath super heated air and choking heat. This was a small fire, six engines and two hand crews were already battling the fire before I arrived. I could see the loom up coming over the 14 and Interstate 5 freeway inter-change. I put out the EPN alert for a potential major fire, but the crews seemed to hold this fire in check rather quickly. Bear Divide hotshots were on my tail as I pulled into the command post on Oak Valley Road west of the Old Road. The hike in was not so bad, but the hike out was pretty tough since it was 102 degrees in the canyon and I was spent. So it was time to cowboy up once again and hike out. A cool drink sure felt good while getting out of my Nomex safety gear. I was soaked with sweat, my face was beet red when I was done for the day. Time to move on to the next story, no complaints, just a job well done.


I felt more like a baked potato on the ridge above the 405 freeway and Getty Center drive as I waited with LAFD dozer 12 on the ridge top above promontory point as a rapidly approaching wildfire was drawing near. I was covering the story for LAFRA and www.socalfirejournal.com in nearly triple digit temperatures, hiking in very steep terrain with heavy ground fuels on either side of me with active fire below. As the fire crested the ridge the dozer had to make a hasty retreat which meant I had to move twice as fast since I was on foot carrying 40 pounds of camera and safety gear. For a while I took refuge in the black, hot smoldering coals of burning brush and soot, as a spot fire crossed the line. Now laying down in my nomex safety gear and hot shield in place I could barely breathe as the thick smoke obscured my vision and sucked the oxygen right out of the air. Constantly shooting, I could hardly see the fire crew in front of me as air craft from above dropped water onto our position, missing the target, the rotor washed fanned the flames even to greater heights. I was happy to get off that ridge top.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Morning Sunrise and Cumulus Clouds

Being an emregncy photographer you never really know what the day migh bring. Today the skies are already filled with dark cumulus clouds over the Antelope Valley bringing with it the potential for dry lightning. An ephemeral snippet of time when the earth and sky are connected by natures raw and yet glorious power. Brilliant down strikes and rolling thunder over the beautiful mountains of the Angeles and San Bernardino Forests. I will be watching the storms closely today. I have the lightning trigger packed and ready to go.

Available today on EPN radio network.