Smokey & the Firefighters

Smokey at the Los Angeles County Fire Museum

This morning, Martine and I trekked all the way to the southeastern City of Bellflower to visit the Los Angeles County Fire Museum. This is one of three firefighters’ museums in the L.A. area. (The others are the L.A. City Fire Museum on Cahuenga in Hollywood and the African-American Firefighters’ Museum on Central downtown.)

Martine brought along her 50th Anniversary Smokey Bear to show the museum staff. Smokey was a big hit to the retired firefighters who served as docents. Martine collects Smokey memorabilia, has a Smokey zipper pull on her jacket, and regularly receives a catalog from Woodland Enterprises in Moscow, Idaho of Smokey Bear goodies.

Many of the fire engines and other equipment on display were used in the television series Emergency! which aired on NBC from 1972 to 1979. That accounts for the Number 51 on many of the vehicles, as they belonged to fictional Squad 51 on the series.

The docents were all retired firefighters themselves who knew a great deal not only about the series, but how the firefighting equipment was used. Our guide was Javier Torres who patiently walked us through the exhibits.

Our Guide, Javier Torres

The Los Angeles County Fire Department covers fires outside of Los Angeles City, especially the sparsely populated areas to the north of the county where most of the wildfires happen.

I have always admired firefighters, as it is one of the few careers which create heroes. When a visitor to the museum asked me if I was a retired fireman, I quickly answered, “No, I’m not quite good enough for the job.”

On Fire—Again!

Firefighters Battling Flames in the Woolsey Fire

Consider this a recipe for disaster: High winds blowing from east to west, bone dry humidity, and large swaths of dry brush. The result? One of the giant fires that sweep through California destroying trees, brush, and houses. Martine and I have been sneezing all night from the accumulation of ash in the air. Tomorrow, my car will probably be covered with a thin layer of the stuff, because I am parked in a carport rather than a closed garage.

Please let me begin by assuring you that I do not live in a zone that is susceptible to brush fires. The people whose housing is threatened are, generally speaking, wealthy. Such top-drawer areas as Malibu, Bell Canyon, Calabasas, Agoura, and West Hills have been requested to evacuate their homes. Those who don’t are in danger of burning to a crisp with all their possessions.

I don’t sympathize much with the home-owners so much as I do with the poor firefighters. Combating these blazes is like working overtime in hell. In addition to the local fire departments, many prisoners and professional brush fire fighters are involved.

As many houses are destroyed will be rebuilt, paid for with insurance money. In a few years, during another drought, they will go up in flames again. And again. And again.