LON SLEPICKA and HEATHER CASPI
Firehouse.com News

NEW YORK -- Although the weather was much cooler than in Los Angeles, the reception for the LA firefighters was warm at Engine Company 40/Ladder 35 at 66th and Amsterdam Ave. in Manhattan Saturday morning. And in return, LAFD left nearly $2.5 million in California sunshine for New York Firefighter Local 94's Widows and Orphans Fund.

Over 100 of the nearly 400 firefighters from the Los Angeles area, who had committed to attend the Memorial Service at Madison Square Garden Nov. 18 before it was postponed, decided to bring the checks and make their presence known to their brothers in New York this weekend anyway.

Engine Company 40/Ladder 35 lost eleven firefighters Sept. 11.

"They will still come out but it was important to us to show the country we cared and to represent the guys from LA," said LAFD PIO Captain Steve Ruda.

"We were very disturbed at first (about the postponement) but understood and supported the decision. And after the plane crash in Rockaway, we even decided to fly American Airlines," Ruda said.

But the important thing Saturday morning was to present the checks to Local 94 representatives. On the list were LAFD Fire Station 10, $30,000; Fire Station 72, $350,000; Battalion 14, $45,000; Battalion 12, $60,000; Battalion 6, $80,000; the firefighter credit union, $900,000. The group said it was especially important for the funds to be delivered before the Holiday season.

In addition, a group in the name of Fallen Heroes raised a million dollars through bracelet sales. Two Los Angeles firefighters organized and handled the fundraiser with the help of their families. Ray Hoffman and his wife Teresa, along with Kevin Lowe and his wife Ruth and daughter Jordyn, came to the city to personally present their check.

The firefighters said they got the idea to sell bracelets from a similar fundraiser held by the LAPD when one of their officers was killed several years ago. Their original hope was to raise $30,000 so they teamed up and ordered 3,000 bracelets, but they sold out in about 12 hours. The bracelets were sold from fire stations across Los Angels and in Orange County, as well as by mail distribution.

"We made $50,000 a day for the first couple of days. It spread like wildfire and took on a life of its own," Lowe said. His wife added that they have been getting orders from all over the world and will keep filling them until there is no more demand.


Following the ceremony, two buses carried the firefighters to the memorial service for Engine 58's Lt. Robert Nagel. For Captain Rick Denning, it was a bittersweet trip. Soon after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, he was flying across the country as a member of the Los Angeles based Urban Search and Rescue Team.

For two weeks he and the team worked the devastation looking for survivors with little luck. "We were here under such different circumstances. We were focused and working in an entirely different world," Denning said.

And even though they were now traveling to a fellow firefighters memorial service, Denning said, "Today it is such a different atmosphere and I am a lot more relaxed."

Firefighter Jim Stiglich, who was on the same USAR team said, "the very least you could do now was to come back and honor them."


Denning was planning to drive out to New Jersey Monday to visit a class of third graders that he never got to know but came to love. "Everyday a laundry service took our clothes for cleaning. And when they came back, in each bundle were cards from these third graders telling us how much the appreciated us. It lifted my day," he said.

The firefighters planned to attend a mass at St. Patricks Cathedral Sunday and to visit Ground Zero. Members of LAFD Fire Station 10 were planning to spend some time with FDNY Engine 10.