87 Years Ago Today - Lieutenant Roman Ritters

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 |

LAFD Hose Company No 1 circa 1914.To many, it may look humorous, the 1914 Moreland Combination Hose Wagon seen at left. Viewing the men aboard, a contemporary might at first laugh, imagining them to be the Fire Service equivalent of the Keystone Cops.

Nothing however, could be further from the truth.

In the early days of the Los Angeles Fire Department, and just a few years prior to the retirement of our beloved Blackie and Cotton, the eastside of our great City was protected by the men of LAFD Hose Company Number 1, who were a prideful bunch.

While understandably proud of their early conversion to motorized apparatus from fire horses, they were even more proud to be led into battle by Lieutenant Roman W. Ritters.

Lieutenant Roman W. Ritters, LAFDRising briskly through the ranks in less than twelve years to become an LAFD Officer, Lieutenant Ritters bravely led his crew to battle many conflagrations, including a massive Mt. Washington grass fire on June 9, 1919 that would ultimately cost him his life.

On a day the Los Angeles Times later referred to as "the hottest day of the year", and one that saw our Department battling fifty-two alarms, a then record for one day in Los Angeles, Hose Company Number 1 was joined by every firefighting apparatus in the City for over three hours in battling flames near Pasadena Avenue and Marmion Way.

It was near that location that Lt. Ritters sustained serious burns about the head, face and body while attempting to save several homes in the fire's path.

Taken to a downtown Receiving Hospital staffed by Physicians who gained expertise in treating municipal maladies during World War I, Lieutenant Ritters succumbed to his painful injuries eleven grueling days later, on June 20, 1919.

Much has changed in Los Angeles in the past 87 years. One thing that hasn't is the commitment of the Firefighters who stand ready to serve you.

On this anniversary of Lt. Ritters' passing, we hope you will work in earnest to minimize wildfire danger in your community, while surveying your home and neighborhood for life safety concerns.

Los Angeles residents who have a non-emergency concern or question about fire safety are encouraged to contact their Neighborhood Fire Station via 3-1-1.

To learn more about the fascinating history of the Los Angeles Fire Department, please plan your visit to the LAFD Museum in Hollywood.


Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't think that photograph looks funny. I once saw a coal driven fire pump from the 1800's. I was impressed: it looked as if it was very well made. While looking at the pump, I could imagine what it was like fighting fires in the past.

david Barrett said...

Fabulous article, Brian!

Anonymous said...

I ecourage those of you with an interest in LAFD history and those aspiring to become Los Angeles Firefighters to read "Los Angeles Fire Department: Century of Service" by the Dean of Fire Service authors, Paul Ditzel. Although the book is now 20 years old and out of print it is available in many libraries and by inter-library loan.

Chris S

Charlie Karpowsky said...

From what I remember Hose Company No. 1 began as East L.A. Hose Company No. 2 in 1892. It became Chemical Engine Co. No. 3 in 1895. In 1900 it became Hose Company No. 1 and remained so until 1929 when it became Engine Company No. 70 at 113 South Griffin Ave.

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous:

Thanks for the note. I agree with you - and therefore changed the opening sentence to include the word 'humorous' instead of 'funny'.

While those of us who are Fire Service history buffs smile for a different reason upon seeing such a photo, there are many who at first find it amusing to see the faded black and white photos of our proud LAFD past.

Thanks for visiting our LAFD web log. While the bulk of our focus will remain on the here and now, we hope to include periodic glimpses at our past, especially when they help footnote our modern day concerns.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Mr. Barrett,

Thank you for your kind words.

We rely heavily on the feedback of our visitors, and trust that those who are intrigued by the bravery of Lieutenant Ritters will seek to visit the LAFD Museum and Memorial in Hollywood.

The Museum is open on Saturdays from 10:00AM to 4:00PM, and admission is free.

For further information, please visit LAFDHS.COM or call (323)464-2727.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Chris:

Thanks for the important reminder. I am deeply honored to know Paul Ditzek as a friend, and will agree with the notion that he is the undisputed Dean of Fire Service Authors.

Those who wish to purchase the rarely available book you mention can try such retailers as LAFD blog sponsor Amazon.com, or some used book stores.

As you mention though Chris, the book (see the review), can often be found in libraries or through inter-library loan.

Thanks Chris, for highlighting that treasure of a book.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Mr. Karpowsky:

Thanks for providing personal insight about the history of LAFD's Hose Company Number 1.

You'll be pleased to learn that the LAFD Historical Archive maintains a special web page specific to this storied Company of Los Angeles Firefighters.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

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