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LA County Firefighter Jonathan Flagler Dies While Battling Blaze At Rancho Palos Verdes Home

RANCHO PALOS VERDES (CBSLA) — A Los Angeles County firefighter died Thursday after being injured while battling a small bedroom blaze in Rancho Palos Verdes.

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, where they found flames in a bedroom and in the attic of a one-story home. The residents were outside the home when firefighters arrived and were not injured.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn and the LA County Fire Department confirmed Flagler's death on Twitter.

"This is a devastating day for LA County, certainly for the fire department, and certainly for his wife and two young sons that he leaves behind. We're all thinking about them, praying for them this morning," Hahn said at a news conference.

Later Thursday, the L.A. County Fire Department identified Flagler as their fallen firefighter saying, "It is with great sorrow the #LACoFD share the unexpected passing of FF Jonathan Flagler.  At approximately 2:49 a.m. this morning, Fire Fighter Flagler sustained fatal injuries while engaged in firefighting operations at a single-family residence in Rancho Palos Verdes."

"FF Flagler made the ultimate sacrifice; his bravery and courage will never be forgotten," the department said.

Los Angeles County Firefighter Jonathan Flagler.
(credit: Los Angeles County Fire Department)

LA County Fire Interim Fire Chief Anthony Marrone said the firefighter had part of an entry team inside the home when he was overcome by the fire and smoke. He put out a call for assistance and was rescued by his fellow firefighters, Marrone said.

Flagler, who started his fire service career with the Vernon Fire Department in 2002, was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, where he died.

"It was the fire and products of combustion that caused him to lose his life," Marrone disclosed in a press conference on the tragic event.

"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.

Flagler 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.

A procession carrying his body was held Thursday afternoon from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center to the County Coroners.

Meanwhile, a memorial was growing for Flagler outside his fire station— Station 83 — in Rancho Palos Verdes.

First responders from across the Southland gathered outside of the Harbor UCLA Medical Center as Flagler's body was transported to the coroner's office, leading a procession for their fallen comrade.

Both LA County Fire arson investigators and LA County sheriff's homicide investigators are looking into the cause of the fire. The structure is also being assessed.

LA County sheriff's homicide Lt. Chuck Calderaro said the investigation is not criminal in nature at this time.

The Clark family, who owns the home where the fire occurred, are besides themselves following the incident. "We are so sorry for the way in which he died and the grief their whole family must be suffering. Our heart goes out to them," said Idelle Clark, one of the owners.

She spoke with CBS reporters on Thursday to discuss the frightening circumstances. "It was pretty terrifying. First it was white smoke and then it was black, black, black. ... You could hear small explosions, which I think were my ornamental glass pieces."

Clark continued, "What we lost is material, we could live without it or replace it… and that's a very different loss than what they have. We hope the best for them and will keep them in our hearts."

Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement in response to Flagler's death on Thursday evening:

"Jennifer and I send our heartfelt condolences to Firefighter Flagler's family, friends and Los Angeles County Fire Department colleagues at this difficult time. This devastating loss is a reminder of the dangers our heroic firefighters face every day to protect Californians. Firefighter Flagler's sacrifice and over two decades of selfless service will not be forgotten."

Newsom also announced that in Flagler's honor, all Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)


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