On Saturday May 13, 2023 the Los Angeles Fire Department celebrates Fire Service Day with an open house at all neighborhood fire stations. With varied activities that include station tours, demonstrations, fire/life safety information and pancake breakfasts, the annual citywide event seeks to create lasting memories while strengthening the vital bond between members of the LAFD and the communities they proudly serve.
To best celebrate this day, four community members are chosen as Honorary Fire Chiefs in each of LAFD's four geographic bureaus, based upon their public service and heartfelt support of the LAFD mission.
This year, we are pleased to introduce four exceptional individuals chosen as the our 2023 Fire Service Day Honorary Fire Chiefs, all of whom are civilians associated with our Community Emergency Response Team.
OPERATIONS CENTRAL BUREAU: Patrick Botz-Forbes
Patrick Botz-Forbes will tell you that he is “just a volunteer” but that undersells his passion for helping other people. He’ll also tell you that he hates to talk about himself and would much rather lead by example than tell you about his accomplishments. Spending most of his free time volunteering in one role or another, Patrick embraces the concept of servant leadership. While he would rather be volunteering his time, his 20+ years as an IT Systems Engineer has built the foundation for much of his desire to understand problems and create solutions in the spaces he supports.
He has been a member of the California State Guard, the all-volunteer State Defense Force, for almost 10 years and served in multiple roles and units. Today, he is a Staff Sergeant (CA) in the Interagency Liaison Detachment and was deployed to the Los Angeles City Emergency Operations Center at the start of the Covid Pandemic as a Liaison Officer / Agency Representative for the National Guard.
Believing that everyone should be first-aid trained, he maintains his EMT license and volunteers for the American Red Cross as a First-Aid Responder at First-Aid Stations for a variety of events. He has been an Assistant Station Leader at the Rose Parade for the last several years. As a licensed ham radio operator, he volunteers with the LAFD Auxiliary Communication Service (ACS) as a radio communicator trained to back up the Fire Department’s radio communications capability in case of a catastrophic system-wide outage.
Patrick’s true passion lies with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training program. This program was created by LAFD in 1986 and aims to teach community members how to be prepared to become volunteer first responders in their own neighborhoods until the professionals can arrive. Originally trained by LA County Fire in 2013, he found his community poorly organized but with a strong history of active teams. In 2016, he became an LAFD CERT Battalion 2 co-Coordinator.
Over the next four years he built the Battalion 2 CERT email list from zero to over 1,600 by running outreach booths at community events, constantly looking for locations to set up CERT classes across Northeast Los Angeles, and putting on trainings and drills. Prior to him becoming a coordinator, CERT Training drills would take upwards to 6 months to plan and execute. By keeping it simple and targeted, he was able to streamline the planning process in a way that these drills could be scheduled and run in as little as 30 days.
With each training, he would provide a realistic scenario that that would focus on a single skill such as medical triage, search and rescue, or damage assessment. If during the drill he observed that the volunteers were weak with their medical skills, the next drill would focus on medical treatment at the tarp. If coming away from that it was realized that communications was not where it needed to be, the next drill would be on two-way radio communication. Then, if the Staging Area struggled, he would plan
the next drill to focus on Staging Area Operations. He is always aiming to focus the next drill on where the last drill needed improvements. This process of targeting what the volunteers needed help the most, creates a much more rounded community responder which was one of the original goals of CERT. Battalion 2 CERT meetings were barely attended. He took the opportunity to implement trainings with trending topics such as: If the Turkey/Syria earthquake happened here, would Los Angeles be prepared?
By recognizing what people wanted to learn, he started bringing regular attendance to 50-75 people. By offering interesting and advanced topics, he attracted untrained community members and got them into CERT classes, and attendees from all over the city of Los Angeles, not just Battalion 2. When the pandemic shut down Los Angeles City run volunteer programs in March 2020, instead of sitting back and waiting for direction from the government, he took this as an opportunity to empower people with knowledge during a real-world “pandemic disaster” by offering monthly “LAFD CERT Continuing Education” trainings on Microsoft Teams and Zoom with attendance averaging 100-250 from across the United States and even internationally with regulars from Chile and Brazil.
When he became the Central Bureau Coordinator in July 2020, he created the YouTube channel “LAFD CERT Coordinators” which today has over 860 subscribers today and gives him and other coordinators a much larger reach not just in Los Angeles but anyone in the entire world willing to look for information.
With all in-person training suspended by pandemic restrictions, Patrick saw that CERT volunteers’ skills were rapidly atrophying. He addressed this challenge head-on and worked with the other CERT Bureau Coordinators to relaunch the Neighborhood Team Program (NTP) city-wide as an optional but unofficial extension of the CERT Program built from the ground up and run by Neighborhood Team Leaders. NTP is designed to organize and train Neighborhood Disaster Response Teams, identify Neighborhood Staging Areas, and work with Neighborhood Councils and other groups to fund Staging Area Kits that have everything needed to get Staging Areas operational for the first 3 hours after a disaster.
Patrick wrote a series of NTP step-by-step guides and documents designed for both trained and untrained community members to follow immediately after a disaster. Each document is no one document is more than 4 pages long. This also created the opportunity to bring back (socially distanced and masked) in-person drills that the volunteers desperately wanted and needed to know to be trained and supported for. Each drill follows the step-by-step guide so training in the Valley is consistent with
training in the Harbor or training in Northeast LA.
By the end of 2021, NTP had 8 new Neighborhood Team Programs in the City of Los Angeles launched and trained over Zoom, 2 Staging Area Kits funded and deployed with several more funded pending Staging Area Locations, and several in-person drills run in the neighborhoods. It would be another 3 months before LAFD CERT Classes would officially resume and the moratorium on in-person meetings and trainings would be lifted by the City.
Today, Patrick is one of the leading drivers of NTP as it continues to be an optional and unofficial extension of the CERT Program, relying on the Fire Department to teach the basic training, but answering the “What’s Next?” question CERT graduates have by delivering a template and step-by-step plan on what the neighborhood will do after the Earthquake happens that can be customized to each neighborhood involved. Because NTPs are organized by, lead by, funded by, and hosted by community
members, it gets around a lot of red tape and limitations and entrusts the continuity of training and disaster planning to the residents of the local neighborhood.
OPERATIONS SOUTH BUREAU: Chin Thammasaengsri
Chin is a native of Los Angeles who has lived his entire life in the community of Mid City. His early education was in the Catholic school system at St. Paul’s Catholic School in Arlington Heights and the former Daniel Murphy Catholic High School in Hancock Park. Early interests included art & drawing with an expansion to creative writing starting in high school. In high school, he added what would later become his career path in the area of film and media production. After graduating in 1987, Chin attended California State University @ Los Angeles and majored in Film Television. His early love of writing expanded to include writing for film & television. Chin took writing classes in the area of screenwriting and would be one of only a chosen few selected to study advanced writing techniques under writer Michael Miner in his fourth year. He became an intern at the CBS Television Network in Hollywood in the Television Stations Division which manages all advertising sales operations for the company’s owned & operated television station including KCBS-TV Channel 2 here in Los Angeles.
Upon completing his studies at Cal State Los Angeles, Chin joined the CBS as a full-time employee in 1991 and in the same office where he interned. As of today, he is in his 33 rd year with the company. Through the years, he has served as Senior Sales Coordinator while also managing the division’s internship program. Chin has served as a member of CBS’ systems implementation team which allowed him to travel to CBS’ owned stations across the United States. If you didn’t think this is enough for one lifetime, Chin is a filmmaker and content producer. As a filmmaker, his memorable works include a history of Los Angeles’ African American Firefighters made with the assistance of the Los Angeles City & County Stentorians along with another project focused on L.A.’s historic stations. Chin satisfied a love of news
content by creating & producing an hour-long news program, “Newswire L.A.” The program aired on LA36 TV and featured newsmakers & interviews with diverse local and national personalities/entities such as the entire original cast of the “CHiPs” TV series, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Fashion Week Los Angeles, and the annual Oscars Broadcast. He supervised four staff reporters/anchors and the series production teams. This series lasted five years & 125 episodes. He enjoyed covering the 2012 County of Los Angeles race for District Attorney. Jackie Lacey, who won that race, appeared multiple times during the show’s run and became a good friend to the series staff. As an active television writer, Chin landed at such well known and legendary series including Star Trek: Voyager, Millennium, The Pretender, and Stargate SG-1.
Chin heard about the CERT program for the first time while working on filmed projects with fire department related themes. In 2014, Chin took a break and joined a CERT class which took place in the community of West Adams. His initial thought, after completing the program, was that he would return to his neighborhood, round up a team, and get everyone prepared for “The Big One.” CERT became far more than that. After joining his Battalion 18 team, he quickly became active in terms of coming up with exercises and educational opportunities for his group. Outreach was also a huge priority during those early times. A year after joining, he was
promoted to Battalion 18 Coordinator. His first act was to introduce the concept of a monthly newsletter which we know as “Floor Watch.” Chin used those writer’s skills to inform the members of the team and celebrate their daily efforts to make their communities safer places to live.
As of this writing, there are 86 monthly issues of Floor Watch in the archive. After a year in Battalion 18, he promoted to Operations South Bureau Coordinator which is the position he holds to this day. At about the same time, he was pulled onto the LAFD CERT Call Out Team. He was, and is, one of the responders who answers the call when the LAFD needs support assistance at fires, weather events, and other incidents. Chin serves in a managerial capacity of the team as the lead scheduler who compiles and issues the weekly duty roster that the LAFD uses to gauge CERT Call Out Availability citywide. He also manages the assignment of members who work area events such as the annual Taste of Soul and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parades, and even CERT’s annual Fire Patrol.
In a life full of adventure, Chin will tell you that being with the CERT Team is a highlight that ranks as high as anything he’s done in television & film because it’s about what does for his community not himself. He follows in the steps of his parents who were also active in their community for decades. As the CERT Operations South Bureau Coordinator, Chin says that managing an area that runs from West Los Angeles through the Port of Los Angeles makes him a “close neighbor” to everyone in those neighborhoods and communities. It is this thought that drives him month to month as he pushes the CERT concept forward in South Bureau.
OPERATIONS VALLEY BUREAU: Christy Adair
Originally from West Texas, Christy grew up in several regions of Texas as well as Missouri, Alabama and Florida. Living in various parts of the country - she learned early how to prepare for tornadoes, flash floods, electrical storms, brush fires, earthquakes and once had to evacuate in the middle of the night when a hurricane suddenly changed course.
Christy received her CERT Training in 2001 through NBC Universal where she eventually became one of their instructors and served on the prestigious CERT Advisory Council. Subsequently, Christy joined the LAFD CERT team in 2002 and quickly established regular CERT Community meetings in Battalion 10. She served as the LAFD CERT Coordinator through 2017 when she began new duties as the LAFD CERT Valley Bureau Coordinator.
Other volunteer activities have included working on the Mayor’s Crisis Response Team and with the American Red Cross as the Deputy Incident Commander for the Rose Parade. Christy is also an NREMT, a Ham Operator with LAFD ACS and serves on the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council.
Her professional life has involved working at various studios with film and TV production crews all over the world. She currently works as a Labor Relations Executive at Cast & Crew Payroll serving the entertainment industry. She serves her community just as her grandfather did when he and his cousins, including Red Adair, started a CERT-like chapter in West Texas for community preparedness and disaster response in the 1940’s.
Continuing in her family’s preparedness and first responder traditions; Christy believes in empowering local communities to take care of themselves in disaster scenarios.
OPERATIONS WEST BUREAU: Carl Ginsberg
Having just moved into our new home in November of 1993, we experienced the Northridge earthquake. The house and we survived with little damage. But since I am from the East Coast, and never experienced an earthquake I was quite shaken. My wife, a native Los Angeleno had the same feeling. So, in late 1994 we took CERT training.
We found out that our new neighborhood had a robust ‘ERt’ team (as CERT was known a that time) which we both joined. Later on, through attrition and passing of older members we found that we needed a new leader. Well, of course everyone pointed at me.
Moving to around 2006, I ran into a neighbor who was a CERT Coordinator. After asking what that was all about, he invited me to be his guest at the next meeting. I found it to be interesting and by the end of the meeting, I was a Battalion 4 coordinator.
After responding to the Catalina fire in 2007 I was asked by the Division 1 Coordinator Bill Whitney if I would like to be the Division 2 Coordinator. Of course, I could not turn down the offer.
Time went on, Divisions became Bureaus and so I have been the West Bureau Coordinator since that time.
Under Captain Gerlich we developed the Call-out Teams. Later under the next Captain we continued with that development. During that time due to a conversation with then Captain Alicia Welch the idea of a firefighter hydration unit was born. The Rehab Air Tenders were then in use for hydration and rehab but saw limited use due to the need for a firefighter to deliver and then return the rig to its station. Capt. Welch and I wondered if we could get a pickup truck (plug buggy in LAFD speak) that CERT volunteers could drive to use to deliver hydration and rehab. I had made friends with Chief Brian Cummings a while before and knowing his firm support of CERT, I blew past the chain of command and emailed him about this. He turned me over to Chief David Yamahata and we had an in-person meeting. I pitched several ideas but it was hydration/rehab that he latched on to. He was to contact me soon afterwards to let me know what was possible in that regard. Well, Chief Yamahata didn’t get back to me for 3 or 4 weeks so I emailed Chief Cummings again. He didn’t reply but a few days later I did get a call from Chief of Staff John Vidovich. I explained the plan and he said he liked it and would get back to me. He did not, but, 10 days later a plug buggy was delivered to Fire Station 59. The rig was faded pink, the wipers didn’t work, no heat or air conditioning but we used it for dozens and dozens of runs.
I have to give credit to many additional Captains at 59s who supported me and my wild adventures over the years: Linda Cessor, and Cedrick Cleveland were the driving forces at the beginning but every captain since then, most notably Captain Clifford Smith (always known as Smitty) kept things going until he recent retirement. I give many thanks to all of them.
Our CERT Captains, beginning with the outstanding work of Captain Chris Winn, then on to Captain Cody Weireter and now Captain Gates have been completely supportive as well and I own them many thanks.
Now, some 8 years later, we have 5 Hydration/Rehab rigs mostly repurposed rescue ambulances, scattered around the city. We also do power lines down, fire patrol and much more using these rigs but the biggest demand is for Hydration/Rehab. We just received an almost new rig at fire station 59 and it is in great shape. Looking at the possibility of a bad fire season coming up for 2023 we know that CERT is ready and fully equipped to perform admirably to take care of our firefighters out in the field.
We have come a long way and I expect that with the continued support of the Department to be up to future challenges as well. It’s been an interesting ride, sometimes frustrating, but always rewarding. We too serve the City of Los Angeles with pride and dedication.