Four Los Angeles County firefighters and three Fire Explorers were among more than a dozen public safety professionals and explorers honored at Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe’s 2015 Homeland Heroes Public Safety Appreciation Luncheon at Pacific Palms Resort in Industry on Thursday, Oct. 29.
The annual event, which is focused on the unincorporated communities of Whittier, Rowland Heights and Hacienda Heights, shone the spotlight on Fire Fighter Specialist Richard Meline and Fire Fighter Matthew Walmsley of Fire Station 103; Fire Fighter Jonathan Ingersoll of Fire Station 145; Fire Captain Dustin Robertson of Fire Station 118; and Explorers Maxwell Wittenberg, Christopher Lewis and Keegan O’Henley.
The luncheon also recognized honorees from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol.
“Today, we salute those who wear the badge and selflessly place themselves in harm’s way to keep communities and neighborhoods safe,” Knabe said.
Fire Chief Daryl Osby, as well as LASD and CHP officials, commended the honorees. It was agreed that all three departments are “the best in the world” at what they do.
Each person honored received a commendation and a small trophy.
Meline, one of two firefighters of the year for unincorporated Whittier, is a graduate of Glendora High School and a 35-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Currently assigned to Fire Station 103 in Pico Rivera, he is a member of the Department’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 103. He has been a member of FEMA-certified California Task Force 2 for the past 23 years, and he has been deployed as part of a USAR team to disasters such as the 1994 Northridge earthquake; the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.
Walmsley, the other firefighter of the year for unincorporated Whittier, served as an officer and a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has been a member of the fire service for more than 18 years—about 15 of which have been with the LACoFD. Like Meline, he is a member of USAR Task Force 103, and Walmsley has been a member of CA-TF2 for the past 5 years. As part of the task force, he was deployed to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and to Nepal this year after the devastating earthquake in April.
Rowland Heights Firefighter of the Year Ingersoll joined the LACoFD Explorer Program when he was in high school, and in 1994, he was hired as a utility driver for the Department. He continued to serve weekends as a volunteer firefighter with the California Department of Forestry in Riverside County until the LACoFD hired him as a firefighter 10 years later. He has received specialized training in USAR, swift water rescue and hazardous materials.
Robertson, the Hacienda Heights firefighter of the year, has been with the Department for 14 years. He previously served as a volunteer firefighter, a paramedic and an engineer with the La Verne Fire Department. He is a member of the Department’s Honor Guard and CA-TF2; he also serves as an emergency medical technician instructor for the recruit academy and the explorer coordinator for East County, among other responsibilities.
O’Henley, an Explorer at Post 12, attends Santa Margarita Catholic High School. Wittenberg and Lewis are Explorers at Post 8. Wittenberg is studying fire science at Mt. San Antonio College, while Lewis is a senior at Santana High School in La Puente.
In addition to the honorees’ families, Chief Osby, acting Chief Deputy David Richardson, Deputy Chief John Tripp, Assistant Chief Chris Jackson, acting Assistant Chief Jim Robinson and many other sworn and civilian personnel attended the ceremony.
Photo slideshow at top: This year’s Homeland Heroes honorees. Photos by La Fonda Riggins and Nicole Mooradian.