Call of Duty
The firemen of the South Bay share a special and important relationship with the cities they serve.
Photographed by Jeff Berting
(page 1 of 3)
Captain Phil Schneider and Crew
Los Angeles County Fire Department
Station 106, Rolling Hills Estates
There are a total of 170 Los Angeles County fire stations, with a vast amount of resources. So vast that if there is a fire on Catalina Island, Palos Verdes firefighters are picked up by helicopter and transported to the island within 30 minutes. That should not be surprising, given that four members from Fire Station 106 also serve on the department’s California Task Force 2, an elite, worldwide urban search and rescue team that recently deployed to Haiti, New Zealand and Japan.
“My crew and I are a family, and we rely on each other,” shares veteran captain Phil Schneider. “Many of us bring years of experience from other busy stations across the Los Angeles basin. But we have completely different challenges on the Palos Verdes Peninsula with brush fires and over-the-side cliff rescues that require extra training and regular drills. On average, we respond to two calls per month that involve rappelling off of cliffs with ropes and rescue systems.”
Station 106 is one of six on the peninsula, with a total of 30 firefighters, including the chief. They rotate three shifts so there are 10 personnel on duty at all times. When the alarm sounds, the trucks are out the door in one minute or less, responding to medical rescues and fire-related emergencies. “Most of the fires that we are called out on never make it to the media because of our quick response and the short time it typically takes to extinguish them,” says Schneider.
Station 106 serves others well beyond responding to the toll of a fire alarm. Every year, the firefighters take to busy street corners with outreached boots and hearts, seeking donations for a national Fill-the-Boot campaign. Their efforts, combined with other participating fire stations, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The Rolling Hills Estates company has also been involved in several other community causes, such as the Los Angeles district attorney’s 20-year Rescue Youth Program—a volunteer program for firefighters to mentor disadvantaged kids and to discourage gang participation. Though the program was put on hold this year due to lack of funding, many young lives have been touched by Schneider and his staff. “We have taught kids about being good citizens, family values and good work ethics, while building on core team values, since everyone really needs each other to succeed in life.”
“Many of us get together off duty to play on a Fire Department softball league. I also have a passion for youth sports and kids and have been a Palos Verdes Little League baseball coach for many years. Coaching is so important to me that, when I can, I try to schedule some of my shifts around it.”
“We get a lot of calls for horse rescues. One of the most unique ones was when a horse somehow ended up in a swimming pool. Because of trees and houses, we could not get a helicopter in to lift it out. So we drained the pool with our truck pumps and then put dirt in it to build a ramp so the horse could safely walk out. We have to be creative on the spot!”
The Door is Open:
“We have an open door policy at the station and give tours for schools, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and anyone who is interested. We welcome the public and encourage visitors to stop by.”