Early in 2018, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation became aware of a significant near miss event in Los Angeles, California. A rookie firefighter fell through the roof during operations at his first working fire. Within days, the Los Angeles fire chief took bold action to ensure the firefighter was cared for, activated a critical injury investigation, and develop a plan of action to prevent a future occurrence.
As part of the Foundation’s mission to prevent preventable line-of-duty deaths, we partnered with the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) and Full Vision Productions, to produce a documentary on the incident and its aftermath. The resulting piece, Go Down Swinging: The Nathan Espinosa Story, follows Firefighter Nathan Espinosa, Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas, and several other significant participants as they navigate Nathan’s injury and recovery, as well as how the chief led the department to new practices designed to create a more situationally aware firefighting force.
Nathan spent two years recovering from his injuries and is expected to return to full duty as a firefighter in the next several months. The impact of the injury on his family and co-workers is exceptionally well chronicled, with especially poignant commentary from his wife, Alexa, parents Frank (a retired LAFD battalion chief), and Stephanie, and his officer that day, Apparatus Operator Alex Tavera. Interviews with Chief Terrazas, Adam Walker (the lead investigator for the after action), and comments by one of LAFD’s operations deputies, Al Poirier, provide significant insight into the department’s recognition that they could have experienced a line-of-duty death and sincere commitment to not letting an event like this repeat itself. Nathan notes that instruction from his drill tower instructors was significant in saving his life. The video is dedicated to all firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“Go Down Swinging…” runs 36 minutes. You can also watch the advance premiere that includes commentary from several of the people who were part of the video at vimeo.com/465384202.
This article tells us how one fire chief and a major metropolitan department recognized a threat and responded by taking bold corrective action before the threat became a tragedy. The story is a model of courageous leadership.
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