A spectacle was in order for the first firefighter Los Angeles has lost on the job in almost four years. Flags flew at half mast in downtown this morning, and dozens of polished fire trucks lined city streets near the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Friends, relatives, and city officials joined hundreds of firefighters from across the country who paid their last respects to fallen firefighter Brent Lovrien. KPCC's Patricia Nazario and Brian Watt observed the memorial.
Patricia Nazario: It's a rare occasion when you can hear a pin drop along Temple Street near L.A.'s City Hall.
[Sound of color guard calling out: "Left, left, left, right, left..."]
Nazario: The mood was solemn as onlookers stood shoulder-to-shoulder. An honorary color guard marched away from the back of engine number 95. Eight firefighters in their dress black uniforms marched up a shallow ramp to the shiny red casket perched high on their truck. It carried the remains of their brother, Brent Lovrien.
[Sound of man calling out: "About face."]
Video: Firefighters carry Brent Lovrien's casket from his fire truck:
Nazario: Lovrien served on the L.A. City Fire Department for 10 years. While he responded to an emergency call, a freak explosion killed him a week ago Wednesday.
At least 1,000 people in uniforms gathered at City Hall's south lawn for his funeral procession.
[Sound of bagpipes, man calling out: "Order, huh!"]
Nazario: Along the five-block route to Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, two sets of fire engines were positioned in special formation. Their ladders extended towards the heavens. Where they intersected, suspended American flags fluttered in the wind.
Fire Captain Armando Hogan: Basically, what you see is the crossed aerials.
Nazario: Fire Captain Armando Hogan said fire departments borrowed the tradition from the military.
Hogan: That is part of the transitional phase of an individual going to that fire station in the sky.
[Sound of bagpipes]
Nazario: Bagpipe music is another part of the tradition.
Olive Brown: It gives honor.
Nazario: Olive Brown heard the music from inside her office at the Hall of Records. She came downstairs to stand at attention.
Brown: There's a certain amount of ritual. And I think rituals are important in our society. Sometimes we kind of lose sight of that.
Nazario: Bystander Billy Barera didn't. He drove an hour from Downey and paid $10 to park. With his high-eight video recorder in hand, he held down a spot in front of the cathedral.
Billy Barera: You know, it's such a big event that if people were not here to see it, I could always post it on YouTube, or show it to friends of mine.
Nazario: Friends of firefighter Lovrien said they'll miss his kind nature and good heart. Battalion Chief Ronnie Villanueva guessed at what Lovrien might have said about the spectacle.
Battalion Chief Ronnie Villanueva: "Wow, a lot of people showed up." (laughs) That, and probably he's taking count of who showed up.
Nazario: That would keep him busy for a while. About 200 fire trucks, ambulances, mounted units, and motorcycle officers attended. The event shut down seven blocks around L.A.'s City Hall during morning rush hour.
[Sound of bagpipes and drums]
Brian Watt: A week ago Wednesday, Brent Lovrien rode on fire engine 95 to check out electrical explosions in Westchester. That same fire engine bore him one last time through the streets. It led a procession of thousands from City Hall and stopped outside the cathedral.
LAFD drill sergeant: Los Angeles City Fire Department. Honors. Brother Brent Lovrien. Giving the ultimate sacrifice. Task force 95. Remove your brother. On your command...
Watt: On that command, Lovrien's fellow firefighters from station 95 carried the fire-engine red casket from the truck into the cathedral. Once inside, colleagues and city officials remembered the veteran firefighter many called "Lovey." He loved to talk. Loved to go boating. He'd do anything for a friend, and even more for a stranger. In front of a full sanctuary, one of his captains, Scott Parker, chose to remember Lovrien's sense of humor.
Scott Parker: Lovey was the kind of person who'd make you laugh so hard, you'd want to cry.
Watt: Toward the end of the service, Parker joined another captain to perform a Fire Service tradition. Ten times, they rang a bell – to honor a life that had responded to many of them.
[Sound of bells ringing]