LAFD Firefighter Lauded for Dramatic Highland Park Rescue

Thursday, May 4, 2017
Fire Chief Terrazas Thanks LAFD Firefighter Brent Hartwell
Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas (right) thanks LAFD Firefighter Brent Hartwell at a recent Fire Commission meeting, for performing a dramatic rescue at a Highland Park house fire on January 12, 2017.
Photo Credits: 
Creative Commons Licensed For Your Use: LAFD Photo | Erik Scott

Earlier this year, a member of your Los Angeles Fire Department made a dramatic rescue, saving the life of a Highland Park man. He will say he was just doing his job, however that day he did an extraordinary job. This week, he was recognized with a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles Fire Commission and Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas.

On Thursday January 12, 2017, Firefighter Brent Hartwell was assigned to Engine 55 in Eagle Rock, which responded with other LAFD units to a late night structure fire with a report of a person trapped, at 4912 Mendota Avenue in Highland Park.

As first-to-arrive Engine 55 raced to the scene, it paused only briefly at the end of the block to attach a supply line to a fire hydrant. In that split-second, Firefighter Hartwell instinctively took the immediate action necessary to save the life of a man who would have otherwise perished in the flames. 

With the screams of bystanders underscoring a life was in imminent danger, Hartwell sprinted nearly 400 feet ahead of the engine to the burning home. There an eyewitnesss guided him to a tall window strongly secured with metal bars, where a person in grave danger could be seen against the bright orange glow of approaching flames. 

Though neighbors were trying to pull the bars off the window, they would not budge. Knowing that the trapped man was moments from death, Firefighter Hartwell bolted to the engine, grabbed a rotary saw and rapidly returned to the window, starting the saw as he ran. Reaching above his head, he cut the bottom metal bar as the fire continued to advance. With the top bar out of reach, he quickly grabbed a neighbor's nearby ladder, and successfully used the powerful saw to breach the final bar - only to find that those security bars were strongly intertwined in the thick vines of a mature bougainvillea, not leaving enough room for the man to escape.

Without pause, Firefighter Hartwell summoned Herculean strength to wedge his body against the stucco of the home's exterior to push the bars and vines away from the wall, shouting for the trapped man to jump onto his back. The victim fell squarely out of the tall window and onto Hartwell's shoulders, allowing the firefighter to convey the man to safety, and into the care of Firefighter/Paramedics nearby.

Were it not for the quick, sequential and selfless actions of Firefighter Hartwell, the trapped resident certainly would have died. Instead, the man survived the blaze with only singed hair and smoke inhalation, and has since made a full recovery.

At a well attended meeting of the Los Angeles Fire Commision on May 2, 2017, Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas formally commended Hartwell for his "extraordinary lifesaving efforts", citing his courage, diligent efforts, personal initiative and expedient assistance that directly resulted in saving the man's life. 

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