In the evening of August 22, 2012, Task Force and Rescue 60 responded to a reported traffic accident on Magnolia Blvd near Ben Ave in North Hollywood. When they arrived on scene, they found that an auto had sheared a fire hydrant and a street light standard before coming to rest nearby. They also found two female victims, lying motionless on the sidewalk beneath the water cascading from the hydrant. A crowd of onlookers had gathered, a few shouting that they had tried to rescue the women but had received shocks. The sheared light standard’s live wires were energizing the surrounding water.
The firefighters were informed that the victims in the water were witnesses to the incident and were attempting to assist the auto accident victims when they went down. The husband of one of the would-be rescuers had entered the water but was forced to retreat when he was shocked. An agitated crowd of about eighty citizens was swarming the scene, simultaneously yelling at the firefighters to “not touch it, it’s energized” and “get in there and do something.”
Despite the dangerous situation, the captains made a calculated decision to attempt a rescue of the victims. Using full Personal Protective Equipment including turnout boots, gauntlet gloves and reaching tools, Engineer Andrew Ebli, Firefighter Michael Adams and Firefighter Dominic Ibarra entered the danger zone. Moving gingerly through the ankle-deep, electrified water, they used slow, careful shuffle steps to reach the downed victims. Adams touched the first victim with the back of his hand, and not feeling any electricity, the three firefighters proceeded to remove the victims from the water. Because of the significant caution required, it took several long minutes to make the rescues.
As Ebli, Adams and Ibarra were working to rescue the victims, Apparatus Operator Steve Avedissian, along with Captain Dale Shrode, was able to successfully shut down the hydrant. As all the involved members continued to search for the source of the electricity, the scene was made even more chaotic with an emotional crowd of onlookers adding to the confusion.
After rescuing the victims, the firefighters surveyed the bystanders to see if anyone else had injuries. Six additional patients, including an LAPD officer, were treated for various levels of electrocution. The two women who were removed from the water received Advanced Life Support treatment on the scene. Sadly, both died from their injuries.
Although all Task Force 60 members took calculated risks throughout the incident, Elbi, Adams and Ibarra took extreme personal risk in making initial contact with the electrocuted victims. They demonstrated courage and bravery, “risking a lot to save a lot,” and were each awarded with the Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.
For having demonstrated conspicuous acts of bravery with calculated personal risk, Apparatus Operator Steve Avedissian, Captain Jeffrey Brown, Captain Robert Shrode, Firefighter/Paramedic Jeffrey Ochoa, Engineer Timothy Togneri, Captain Cristian Granucci, Firefighter Ryan Jensen and Firefighter/Paramedic Arturo Martinez were awarded Medals of Merit.
Incident photos by Rick McClure