Cooperative Project Broadens Chief Officers’ Experience
-L. A. County F. D. photo
—Culver City F. D. photo
A PROGRESSIVE TRAINING project for the Culver City, Calif., Fire Department’s four chief officers involving an active observation tour with the Los Angeles County Fire Department has recently been completed. Initiated by Culver City Chief John Kearney, the two-month course included Kearney and Battalion Chiefs Ray Moselle, Burt Campbell and Ernest Estevez.
“We have a small (47-man) department and our men are well trained,” said Chief Kearney. “There are certain elements of training that our chiefs simply cannot obtain in Culver City. For example, one of the major shortcomings is actual experience and training in command and strategy at major fires. He listed the basic benefits gained by assigning the chiefs to work with the County: (1) Tactics and strategy, (2) observing operation of a large and diversified department, and (3) mutual good will between departments.
After the idea for the training project occurred to him, Chief Kearney contacted L. A. County Chief Keith E. Klinger and Deputy Chief John Duncan. The County fire executives were pleased and delighted to cooperate. Chief Kearney was then assigned for two weeks working straight days with Assistant Chief George Brunton, County Division I commander. Brunton and Kearney were firemen together during World War II at Mare Island, Calif., Naval Shipyard. Brunton’s Division I territory adjoins Culver City at several places. “It was an amazing experience to fully realize the complicated operations of a large department,” Chief Kearney commented. “It gave me a much better idea of the over-all picture.”
After Chief Kearney’s two-week assignment with Chief Brunton, each of the battalion chiefs worked two weeks with Battalion Chief Robert Parsons out of the County’s Battalion 3 headquarters in East Los Angeles. They worked on a 24-hour-shift basis with Chief Parsons, covering fires in the immediate battalion area and major responses elsewhere in County-protected areas. The Culver City chiefs also toured County facilities and inspected the department’s helicopter.
Chief Kearney has requested and received approval from L. A. City Fire Chief William Miller to conduct a similar program for his chiefs with L. A. City in the future. “Culver City is surrounded by L. A. City and County,” said Chief Kearney. “Frequently we have mutual aid responses and many borderline fires. By working with our neighbors, we’ll certainly know them better. I’m sure, by the same yardstick, they’ll know us better, too.”
Chief Kearney’s training ideas paid off with high dividend during the last series of major brush fires in the Santa Monica Mountains. “Last year,” reported the Culver City chief, “all members of our department attended L. A. City’s brush fire fighting school at the Mountain Patrol. Although we have little brush area in our city, I felt that the training would be valuable and come in handy at a time when we could help out in a major emergency.”
During the height of the recent Topanga Fire, Chief Kearney dispatched a Culver City engine company to assist County firemen in battling the disastrous blaze in Big Rock Canyon. “I hadn’t attended the brush School,” the chief said, “and was amazed to see the skill and know-how my men had. In one situation, I must admit, I was scared silly. The fire came roaring down on us. I would have pulled the men out, but my captain was well trained, thanks to L. A. City’s school, and calmly positioned the rig and men. Only then did I fully realize the benefit of the training received.”
Chief Kearney firmly believes that the exposure his chiefs have had in working with the County, and later L. A. City, will pay big dividends in the future. “It’s a two-way street for everyone. All departments involved will gain.”