A veteran Los Angeles County firefighter was overcome by smoke and flames Thursday while battling a Rancho Palos Verdes house fire and had to be pulled from the inferno by fellow firefighters and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Jonathan Flagler, 47, was among the crew from Fire Station 83 that responded to the blaze around 2 a.m. in the 30700 block of Tarapaca Road.
“They were engaged in a firefight at a one-story single-family dwelling,” interim county Fire Chief Anthony Marrone told reporters. “… We believe that the fire was in the attic. The smoke and the fire overcame (the firefighter). He put out a `mayday’ for assistance from the other firefighters that were at the scene, and they were able to quickly locate him, rescue him and start the life-saving procedures as necessary.”
Flagler was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, where he died. He is survived by his wife, Jenny Johnson Flagler, and the couple’s two teenage boys, aged 15 and 13, according to county Firefighters Local 1014.
Union officials said the department’s Peer Support Team and chaplains have been deployed to assist the family and affected personnel.
“This incident is a sobering reminder of the real dangers our members face each and every day as we fight to keep our communities safe,” according to a union Twitter post.
Marrone said Flagler began his career with the city of Vernon in 2002. That agency was taken over by the county fire department in 2020. The chief called Flagler “one of our bravest.”
“Right now the fire department’s priority is the care of his wife and two teenage boys and the care and support of our fire family — and those are the brothers and sisters in uniform today who are serving the residents and communities that we are sworn to protect,” Marrone said.
County Supervisor Janice Hahn called it “a devastating day for L.A. County.”
“His bravery and his sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Hahn said. “It’s a good reminder for all of us that it is our first responders, it is our law enforcement, it is our firefighters who don’t think twice when the bell is rung to respond to whatever is out there. They have no idea until they get there. I’m sure he had no idea when he left when he put his equipment on that sadly he wouldn’t be coming back. But we are devastated by this loss.”
The cause of the fire was unknown, and no other injuries were reported. Sheriff’s Lt. Charles Calderaro said that when fire crews and sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene of the fire, residents of the home were already outside.
Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Dave Bradley issued a statement saying the city joins with the fire department and county in mourning the firefighter’s death.
“… We send our heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family of this fallen hero, as well as his courageous fellow firefighters at Station No. 83 in Rancho Palos Verdes,” Bradley said. “We are keeping his family, the firefighters of Station No. 83 and the entire Los Angeles County Fire Department family in our thoughts. The city will never forget his sacrifice and courage.”
Shortly after midday, Flagler’s body was carried in a solemn procession from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center to the coroner’s office in downtown Los Angeles. Flagler’s wife and children were in the procession, which included hundreds of law enforcement and fire department personnel.