Roy and Johnny were almost as nervous as they had
been on their wedding days. The Gage quadruplets and the DeSoto twins
were graduating from the fire Academy. The Fire Department had combined
the ceremonies for both firefighters and paramedics into one ceremony.
Michaela and Matthew Gage and Jason DeSoto were graduating as paramedics.
Megan and Michael Gage and Crystal DeSoto were graduating as firefighters.
Chief Hank Stanley had teased the two Battalion Chiefs and said the
Department had better watch out now. Captain Chet Kelly had said that
Rampart had better add another wing if the Gage quads followed in their
Father’s footsteps. But when it came down to it, all the station
51 family was proud to have another generation of firefighters and
The graduates had filed in and the ceremonies were now ready to start.
Roy and Johnny were seated on the platform with the other battalion
chiefs as representatives of the departmental brass.
Hank Stanley had a smile as he stood up and walked to the podium to
begin the graduations ceremony. His thoughts went to the two men who
had been his paramedics when he was Captain of Station 51’s A-Shift.
Their compassion, reliability and selflessness had been instilled in
their children. It has also been demonstrated with the graduating class
sitting before them—not only the firefighters, but the paramedics,
“I am Fire Chief Hank Stanley and on behalf of the L.A. County
Fire Department extend a warm welcome to the parents, families, and
friends of these fine graduates sitting before us today.” He
paused a minute. “In the brotherhood of firefighters, we have
the proud heritage passed down from parent to child and even to grandchild.
Well, today we have a first in the history of L.A. County. We have
two paramedic graduates and two firefighter graduates who are brothers
and sisters. As a matter of fact they are quadruplets. And one paramedic
graduate and one firefighter graduate—a set of twins—are
the children of the cousin to the quadruplets’ mother. So we
have the privilege of having six graduates from one family. And I have
a special sense of pride since the fathers of these six graduates served
under me as two of the first paramedics in the County.”
Roy and Johnny both turned red as Hank turned to look at them and
the battalion chiefs on either side of them patted their shoulders.
Hank grinned as he turned back to face the audience. “Normally
at this time I would turn the podium over to our top graduate, but
for the first time we do not have one but fifteen graduates with a
4.0 and the lowest grade was a 3.0. So the class voted and our speaker
for this ceremony will be Jason DeSoto.”
Roy was bursting with pride as Jason made his way to the platform.
Johnny playfully elbowed him in the ribs and was grinning from ear
“Fellow graduates, family, friends and all our teachers and
L.A. County Fire personnel, welcome. I am proud to be one of the six
family members who are graduating today. My sister and I are privileged
to join the Gage quadruplets as members of this wonderful group of
grads. Fellow graduates, in a few minutes we begin a new phase in our
lives. We are no longer academy students, but as we start our assignments
we need to remember that we should never stop learning. As my dad and
Uncle Johnny keep telling us, we need to observe and learn from each
situation. As we learn, look at each experience to see what we might
be able to do or use to improve our service to the people of L.A. County.
Captains of the stations where we will be serving, please know that
we realize that we still have a lot to learn from each of you and the
members of your crews, but please have open minds as we bounce off
new ideas and suggestions. Most of those ideas and suggestions will
probably be impossible, but maybe some of them may benefit all of us.
Family members, you have supported us as we have gone through the academy.
Now we need your continued support as we will be facing the dangers
each time we walk into our fire stations to start a shift. But know
that we will do everything we can to come home safely after our shifts.
One thing that my father and Uncle Johnny have stressed more than anything
else is that our first duty is to our victims, but that we should watch
out for our fellow firefighters as well. My father and Uncle Johnny
were partners when the paramedics first started and all of their family
members and our fellow students have enjoyed the stories we have heard
about the original Station 51 A-shift and how each of them watched
out for all the others. I don’t think any station will ever have
the reputation or camaraderie that the members of that shift had, but
they are an example to the rest of us that what we do is dangerous,
but we can all go home safely at the end of the shift if we watch each
other’s back. We ask our families to just remember, as we join
the other firefighters and paramedics, we are doing what defines us
and what is in our blood. Fellow graduates, congratulations.”
Hank joined Jason after he had finished talking. “Thank you
Jason. I second everything you have said. I’m going to ask Crystal
DeSoto, Matthew, Megan, Michael and Michaela Gage to join us. The members
of this graduating class were asked to tell us who they felt was the
most influential on their studies at the academy. We were not surprised
when the responses listed Chiefs Gage and DeSoto 100%.”
Johnny and Roy looked at each other with stunned faces. They had enjoyed
helping the students study and had used the field between their homes
as well as the land out behind their homes to set up real life situations
for the students to practice on. At the Academy, the scenarios were
always controlled and “fake”. The fire was contained and
could easily be “turned off” if something went wrong. The
situations Johnny and Roy would set up were also controlled, but the
students had to be careful since the fire could not be turned off—it
would have to be put out by a seasoned crew that was on hand to keep
the situation from getting away from them. Both men had been pleased
with how the group had grown and after the first few times, the seasoned
crew on hand just watched and enjoyed standing around drinking coffee.
Although the situations for the paramedics were not as easy to set
up, there were things that had happened in the area that they were
able to use as learning tools for the students. During the times they
were helping the class, neither man realized how much they were actually
teaching the students and how much better prepared the firefighters
and paramedics would be when they were sent to their first stations.
The students had gained a confidence that when they were actually faced
with their first real fire or medical emergency they would not freeze,
but would face it head on.
Hank laughed along with all of the students at the stunned looks on
the two men’s faces. The class had asked that they somehow recognize
the two men and Hank had been inundated with requests to implement
their style of teaching into the Academy’s curriculum. Having
secretly watched several of the “training” sessions at
the Gage/DeSoto homes, Hank agreed whole heartedly. He prayed that
the two men would willingly accept what he was about to propose in
response to what the students had requested. “Roy and Johnny,
will you please join us up here?”
Roy and Johnny exchanged puzzled looks as they headed towards the
Chief and their children that were waiting for them amidst the thunderous
applause of the graduates and the families.
When the applause had finally died down, Jason stepped back up to
the microphone. “First, I need to say that the Chief just teased
me about calling Chief DeSoto and Chief Gage ‘Dad’ and ‘Uncle
Johnny’. I should have used their titles. I didn’t get
in trouble, but I would like everyone to know that they didn’t
show us any special treatment. As a matter of fact, I think they were
a little extra harder on us because of who we are. But we wouldn’t
have it any other way.” Jason smiled at the red faces Roy and
Johnny sported. “Chief DeSoto, Chief Gage, headquarters has been
deluged with requests from the graduates, the families and all the
Captains of the stations where we did our field testing that your style
of teaching be incorporated in the future training at the Academy.”
Roy and Johnny stood looking at each other—they hadn’t
felt they had done anything special. All they had done was work with
their children and their classmates to help them learn how to be the
best firefighters and paramedics possible.
“And there was more to the request. Chief Stanley, I’m
going to turn the microphone over to you.” Jason turned and smiled
at the shocked looks on his father’s and “uncle’s” faces.
“Chief DeSoto, you are a great at asset at headquarters and
we are privileged to have you there. Chief Gage you are a natural in
our arson division. But after having received all the requests and
seeing the results of your teaching this class, headquarters would
like to put you in charge of the training at the Academy. They have
started construction in the fields behind and beside the Academy building
to create the areas where situations similar to what you created at
your homes can be used for training. Your efforts in helping this class
learn has shown what a little extra attention can do.”
Johnny stopped listening. His years with the arson squad had only
heightened his “sixth sense” and that “sixth sense” was
in high gear. Stepping up to the mike, he slightly shoved Hank over. “Everyone
get out of here, NOW!” He yelled into the mike and then turned
to push three of his kids off the platform.
Although no one had any idea what the problem was, Johnny’s “sixth
sense” was legendary and no one doubted it. Even the graduates
had seen it in action at one time or another. So when Johnny said move,
everyone moved as fast as they could. The grads automatically went
into firefighter mode and worked together to get their families and
visitors out of the building in a calm, orderly fashion. The regular
members of the fire department assisted in whatever way they could,
but were amazed at the efficiency of the graduating class.
On stage, Roy and Johnny took a second to smile at the way the graduates
were handling the situation. Oh sure, there would be the ones who would
end up not being able to handle the job or who didn’t do their
best and caused trouble, but they knew the majority of the class would
make very good firefighters. They didn’t let those thoughts linger
long, though, as they, too, assisted in getting the dignitaries and
honored grads off the platform and out of the building. Johnny was
going to make sure he was the last one out of the building.
He was furious. Somehow the ceremonies were getting over before they
were supposed to. Sure his bomb would destroy the buildings, but he
had wanted to make a statement. The county had not listened to any
of his suggestions—even when he was serving on the county commission.
Then to top it all off they had asked him to leave when he got angry
at several of the meetings. Then the fire department had not saved
his barn and horses. Even though the barn had been totaled long before
the fire department even arrived, he felt they should have been able
to at least save the horses. He didn’t care that they had worked
hard and saved his home—they had let his horses die. He wanted
to make them pay. Vowing to get his revenge yet, he watched from the
cover of the grove of trees at the side of the Fire Academy property
as everyone streamed out of the building.
As they cleared the door to the building, Roy took the opportunity
to ask Johnny why he had ordered everyone out of the building.
“My sixth sense is telling me something is going to happen.
I have learned to listen to that sixth sense in my years working with
the arson squad. I’m not sure what is wrong, but there is something
wrong. I’d rather be thought crazy and have everyone safe than
to do nothing and have something terrible happen.”
“Well, I’ve learned to listen to your sixth sense, too.
I don’t remember a time when it hasn’t been right so far.” Roy
turned back to making sure that everyone was indeed getting out of
Johnny took the time to look around as the hairs on the back of his
neck stood up and he felt uneasy—like someone was watching them.
He was thankful that the last of the stragglers were reaching the parking
lot that had been set up as the rendezvous point. He knew that whoever
was watching was responsible for whatever was about to happen.
Just as he was about to turn around and head to the parking lot, his
eyes caught those of a man standing in the grove of trees at the property
line. There was a cold blackness in the eyes that bore into his. And
there was a sense of evil radiating from the man. Just as Johnny started
towards the man, the bomb that had been hidden under the platform detonated.
Then the one under the bleachers where the graduates had been sitting
followed. Johnny never heard the shouts from the parking lot or the
third bomb that went off. His world had gone black when he had been
hit in the head by some flying shrapnel. Before anyone could reach
him, he was covered in some of the debris that was flying in all directions
from the building.
Two of the assistants to the head battalion chief started running
towards the man they, too, had seen in the grove of trees. Knowing
he was responsible for the bombs that had just exploded, their determination
was to catch him before he could disappear. Had they known what was
about to take place, they would have stayed where they were. Because
just as they got close but still far enough away they couldn’t
stop him nor avoid what was going to happen, the man pushed the button
that was in his hand. That button was connected to a detonator that
was attached to the bombs he had strapped to his body killing all three
Roy was the first one to reach the pile of debris that covered John
Gage. He started pulling off pieces of building and throwing them haphazardly
to get them off his friend. He was soon joined by several of the graduating
class including his children and Johnny’s children.
Jason firmly but compassionately grabbed his father’s shoulders
when Roy pulled a plank that would have brought everything down on
Johnny had he been successful in getting it out of the pile. “Dad,
let us take over. We need to do this carefully if we want to keep Uncle
Johnny alive.” He purposely refrained from saying what was going
through everyone mind—that in all likelihood Johnny was already
dead. No one could live through being so close to the explosion and
hit with all the debris that had rained down on John Gage. But no one
wanted to voice the idea.
“Ok, you’re right.” Roy stepped back one step and
watched as the work slowed when it was determined that they needed
to carefully plan how to remove each piece so that they would not cause
any disasters that would do any more harm to Johnny than had already
Although the situation was dire and Roy was worried, he watched with
pride as the graduates took control of the situation. He was not alone.
The Fire Department Brass as well as Dr. Brackett, who had become the
head of Rampart General Hospital, and Dr. Mike Morton, who had become
the head of the Emergency Department and Paramedic Program at Rampart
were just as impressed with the way the graduates were handling themselves.
It was just another proof that the training method Roy and Johnny had
used was very successful. But just as fast as the thoughts came, they
went. All thoughts and prayers centered on John Gage and the personnel
trying to save his life.
The work went painstakingly slow as each piece was removed. As the
pile of debris grew smaller, glimpses of John Gage came into view.
It didn’t look good. There was a piece of wood embedded in his
thigh. His side had a piece of glass sticking out of it. His right
leg and left arm were at unnatural angles. There was a huge gash on
his forehead running from the middle of his forehead just above the
left eyebrow all the way down to just above his left ear.
Matthew was the first paramedic to reach his father. Taking a deep
breath, he reached out to check for a pulse on his neck. Closing his
eyes and saying a quick prayer of thanks, he looked up into the anxious
eyes of several firefighters holding their breath. With a tone indicating
the need to hurry, he gave the news everyone was waiting for. “He
has a slow, rapid pulse. We need to get him out of here as soon as
No one cheered. They knew they were still fighting for his life. Work
continued with a careful urgency. Everyone stood and watched as the
ambulance pulled away with a paramedic and Dr. Brackett still working
on the injured Fire Chief. The remaining members of the original Station
51 A-shift slowly gathered around Nicole and their children as a means
of not only providing support for them, but getting support for themselves
in return. There were a lot of prayers being sent up for someone they
all loved dearly.
At Rampart, the activity surrounding John Gage was fast and intense.
Dr. Kel Brackett had no hope of winning the fight for John Gage’s
life, but he was still going to try. He was joined in the fight by
Dixie and Dr. Morton. None of them wanted to admit that because of
the blow to his chest and the penetrating wound so close to his heart,
John Gage was going to die.
Just as the medical team was ready to call the time of death, the
John Gage stubbornness kicked in. Kel couldn’t believe what he
was seeing, but as the bleeding from the wound in his chest slowed,
Johnny opened his eyes. “Johnny, are you with me?” Kel
wasn’t sure they would win the fight yet, but it seemed that
things were getting a little better.
“Yeah, chest hurts—was anyone else hurt?” Johnny
knew there were lots of people there that day and he hoped no one else
“The man who placed the bomb and the two firefighters who tried
to catch him—just as they got close enough he blew himself up
and took them with him. Other than that no one was injured. You saved
a lot of lives today, Johnny.” Kel knew that Johnny would want
to know the truth.
“Just doing my job—what’s the verdict?” Johnny’s
chest was really beginning to hurt.
“We are going to be taking you to surgery to repair the damage
from a penetrating wound to your chest. While we are in there, we will
be checking to see how much damage the blow to your chest caused. Johnny,
just stay with us, ok?” Kel knew that there was the potential
for severe damage and there was no way Johnny was out of the woods
“Yeah, Johnny, don’t leave us—we need that Gage
smile to light up the halls around here.” Dixie was as worried
about Johnny as Kel was.
“I’m not going anywhere. I have three daughters to walk
down the aisle at their wedding and a wonderful wife I want to spend
time with when I retire.” Johnny lost his battle with the pain
and slipped back into the blackness that called him.
“Let’s get him to surgery. If he is going to fight, so
are we.” Kel grabbed the gurney and led the way out of the treatment
room at a dead run. They were going to have to hurry if they were going
to win the battle.
Nicole saw the determined look on the faces of Kel Brackett, Dixie
McCall and Mike Morton as they headed towards the elevators. When Dixie
caught her eye and smiled, Nicole knew that Johnny was still with them
and was fighting to stay with them. As the elevator headed towards
the surgical floor, Nicole headed towards the chapel to spend some
quiet time in prayer.
Dr. Kelly Brackett walked towards the waiting room knowing he had
just witnessed a miracle. With the injuries he received, John Gage
should have died. But somehow he had hung on and was even going to
come out of this with no permanent damage. There was no human explanation
for it—it was a miracle.
As Dr. Brackett looked up, he saw a sea of blue mixed with family
and friends of Johnny’s. There was no room to walk. He was glad
to be able to deliver good news to this group. He smiled as Nicole
saw him and started walking towards him.
“He’s going to be ok, isn’t he?” Nicole knew
by the look on his face that Dr. Brackett had good news.
“Yes, he is going to be just fine. He’ll be our guest
for at least a couple of weeks, but he should come out of this with
no permanent damage barring any unforeseen complications.” Kel
smiled at the shouts of “All Right” and “Yahoo” that
went through the crowd. Then he laughed as Nicole turned to the group.
“All right, we all know he is going to be fine and there are
sick and injured people who need this hospital’s attention. Let’s
clear out so they can do their job. I think we have clogged this hallway
and waiting room up long enough.” Nicole’s smile was contagious
and soon the halls were empty. Even Dixie could not have done a better
job of clearing it out in such a short time.
“Thanks, Nicole. Now I need to get back upstairs and to running
this hospital.” Kel leaned over and gave Nicole a kiss on the
“Thank you, Kel. Thank you for taking such good care of Johnny.” Nicole
kissed Kel back on the cheek.
“As he said in the treatment room, I was just doing my job.
But I’m glad things turned out the way they did. This place would
not have been the same without your husband.” Kel turned and
headed back towards the elevator to head to his office.
Johnny was released about two weeks after the incident. When he had
recovered enough from the surgery, he thought about that day. He had
been resting after a visit from the respiratory therapist when his
thoughts turned to the day of graduation. As he remembered the look
in the eyes of the man who had caused all the destruction, it was like
a light bulb went on in his head. He recalled where he had seen the
Johnny had been the liaison between the fire department and the county
commission when he became the head of the arson squad. Not really sure
how those duties hit in his job description, Johnny had accepted the
challenge like he did everything else—with 110%.
Tom Butler had been a very difficult member of the commission. He
had made several suggestions that were just not feasible either from
a financial standpoint or from a practical standpoint. Some of them
didn’t even make sense. And to make matters worse, he was intolerant
of anyone who did not agree with him. County taxes were going up to
cover costs for schools and services, but he felt he should not have
to pay them—especially for the schools since he had never had
any children. He had made the promise that he would cut taxes in order
to get elected to the commission. However, his ideas were not being
received and he actually blamed Johnny.
Johnny’s heritage angered Tom Butler. He hated the fact that
a Native American was on the L.A. County Arson squad. He had often
tried when Johnny wasn’t at a meeting to get him thrown off the
commission. It incensed him even more when he was told that because
Johnny’s position was not an elected one, only the fire department
could remove him from the commission.
Tom had actually contacted the fire department and grew angrier when
they would not listen to his “concerns”. But the commission
was soon learning they did not want to cross him. He tried to ban Johnny
from the meetings, but was unsuccessful which just fueled his anger
and hate. Whenever things didn’t go the way he wanted them to,
he would try to adjourn the meeting or disrupt the proceedings until
they did adjourn.
When he was actually asked to resign by the other members of the commission
when he couldn’t or wouldn’t control his anger at every
meeting they had, he started to plan his revenge. But the icing on
the cake for him was when the fire department had failed to save his
horses. It didn’t matter that they were already dead before the
fire department arrived. He had always thought the horses were still
alive when the first fire truck pulled into his driveway and that they
should have run into the burning barn and save them. The barn had been
totally destroyed before they even arrived. All that had been left
was the burning embers. But Tom Butler just knew they had not done
their job—the horses could have been saved.
The fire department had worked hard to save his home, but that didn’t
matter. His wife had died in the fire. Although it was never proven,
there was some question on her manner of death. The corner had suspicions
that she was dead before the fire, but her body had burned so badly,
they couldn’t prove it. She had been in the back room where the
fire had started. That was the other thing—the fire looked like
it could have been intentionally started. Johnny had been looking into
the possibility trying to determine if Mrs. Butler had either accidentally
or on purpose started the fire or if someone else might have started
it. Again it was something that had never been proven.
During the two weeks Johnny had been in the hospital, he had poured
over the records and the testimony from Tom Butler’s neighbors
and co-workers. He had come to the conclusion that Tom Butler had murdered
his wife as well as the two firefighters he had taken with him that
fateful day. Johnny sent up several prayers of thanks that his sixth
sense had been working that day. He was full of remorse that two men
had needlessly lost their lives, but thankful that the devastation
was not worse.
The new training facility and curriculum was in place at the fire
academy. Roy and Johnny had become the heads of the academy.
It had started out just any other day. Roy and Johnny were actually
visiting fire stations to check on the latest class members who were
doing their hands on training as the final step before graduation.
The afternoon had been slow in every station they had visited. They
were sitting at the table at Station 51 drinking coffee knowing that
all members of the L.A. County fire department were on edge. There
had been no calls all afternoon. That was very unusual and the feeling
that something big was about to happen was strong throughout every
station. The offices in town would be closing for the night in about
an hour which meant that rush hour traffic would begin. Hopefully everyone
would not let the excitement of the upcoming Labor Day weekend distract
them from their driving and what would be happening around them. Then
it happened—the earth shook as a 7.0 earthquake hit the L.A.
area. As it shook, everyone took cover.
Johnny prayed for his family as the earthquake seemed to continue
forever. In earthquake time it did last forever – the shaking
lasted over a minute. Just when Johnny thought the whole city would
be destroyed before the shaking finally came to an end. The whole time
he lay huddled under the table with Roy, Johnny prayed for his family
at home as well as his kids who would be responding to the devastation
that would be waiting when this was finished.
Roy’s thoughts were running along the same as Johnny’s.
Prayers for his family followed Johnny’s. Both men thought about
other earthquakes they had lived through and were trying to determine
the damage this one would leave behind.
Finally the earth quieted. No one moved for several seconds wanting
to make sure it was really over before headed out to help out where
they could. They all knew that in all likelihood, there would be several
aftershocks and prayed that none of them would be as bad as the original
one. When the tones sounded checking on the status of Station 51, Captain
Chet Kelly led the crew into the bay to determine the damage, if any,
that Station 51 suffered. When he let L.A. know that they had survived
with no damage, Roy and Johnny heaved a sigh of relief. When they heard
Captain Marco Lopez’s voice with the same report, all three of
the original 51 A-shift crew sighed in relief.
It wasn’t long before the tones sounded sending the current
A-shift crew at Station 51 for their vehicles. As the engine and squad
pulled out both Chiefs couldn’t help but wonder why the final
shift Marco and Chet were serving as Captains would be filled with
rescues that probably would have mixed endings—some good and
unfortunately some bad. Both men had been promoted to Chief.
Roy and Johnny stood watching the two vehicles long after the lights
had disappeared from sight. They knew that the feeling that had been
growing all afternoon and was sitting as a huge pit in their stomachs
was also in the pits of the stomachs of the men of the vehicles they
had just witness leave on a run.
Roy and Johnny slowly walked to their fire department vehicle to head
towards headquarters to see where they would be of the most help. But
they never made it. As they started down the main thoroughfare, Johnny
heard the sound of a sputtering motor. Roy was already searching the
sky in order to determine where the sound was coming from.
Johnny shared one last look with Roy as the plane headed right for
the roadway where they were sitting. The small plane was in trouble
and both men knew it. Johnny, who was driving, reacted instantly. Turning
the vehicle around, he hit the lights and siren and cleared out the
traffic that had been behind them. The small plane followed the emergency
vehicle down the cleared out street until it touched down. Although
it had what everyone would call a controlled crash landing, everyone
realized how much worse it could have been.
Roy and Johnny were both out of the car almost before Johnny had it
in park. Roy had requested a squad, an engine crew and an ambulance
while Johnny was clearing out the road. Now both men were praying that
those vehicles would arrive soon.
Johnny was the first to reach the plane. He immediately went to the
pilot’s side and pulled open the door to the small plane. His
heart sank as he realized the pilot was dead. Looking to the other
two passengers, he realized they were a medical team.
The strength of the nurse in the back seat was evident as she looked
at Johnny. “Our plane started having mechanical trouble about
twenty minutes ago. Joe thought he could reach the small airport just
outside of Carson. We would have, too, if he hadn’t had a heart
attack. It was instantaneous and Bill here did a great job bringing
it in even though he has no flying experience.”
Roy had opened the passenger door and was looking at the blood running
down Bill’s face. “Yes, he did. Bill, are you hurt anywhere
besides this bump and cut on your head?”
Bill’s dazed look told Roy that he had at least a concussion
if nothing else. “No, just have a whopper of a headache.”
Roy smiled as he carefully checked Bill over. Johnny had carefully
moved Joe’s body out of the pilot seat and onto the ground near
the back of the plane.
“You are in uniform. Is this a medical flight or an off-duty
flight?” Johnny wondered where the three were headed.
“It’s a medical flight.” The nurse was frantically
looking around her seat. “We are a transplant team and were headed
for Rampart General with a heart.” She pulled the cooler with
the heart up from the floor with a relieved sigh that it had withstood
the crash and was still in one piece.
Looking up and seeing several police cars arriving at the makeshift
landing strip, Johnny knew what they had to do. “Kevin, we need
to get this nurse and heart to Rampart General yesterday!”
Kevin Stevens looked up at the shout from John Gage. Realizing what
Johnny had said, Kevin headed toward the downed plane on a run. Grabbing
the cooler in one hand and the nurses’ right elbow in the other
and took off for his cruiser. With a quick thank you, the nurse kept
pace with the running officer and knew they would make the deadline
for the transplant.
Meanwhile Roy was starting the IV Rampart had ordered for Bill. He
had already placed a pressure bandage on his head. They all smiled
as they heard Kevin’s communication with Rampart about the heart.
All three men had a good feeling as they loaded Bill into the back
of their fire vehicle. With the earthquake all ambulances and paramedic
teams were tied up. Roy had to smile to himself as he remembered the
argument he and Johnny had when Johnny had wanted to keep a set of
fully stocked paramedic gear. Roy had been against it. Now he was glad
Johnny had won the argument.
Johnny jumped in the back seat with Bill as Roy took his familiar
place behind the wheel. “Hang on this is going to be bumpy with
the roads all broken up.” He looked in the rearview mirror at
his friend and their patient.
“But you will get us there in one piece, pally. You always do.” Johnny
smiled at his friend and kept an eye on their patient as Roy carefully
drove as fast as he dared to Rampart.
Roy and Johnny had jumped in when they arrived at Rampart and saw
the chaos the earthquake had caused. Both men were pleased they had
kept up their paramedic certification so that they could be useful.
Drs. Brackett, Early and Morton as well as Dixie were grateful for
the four extra hands. It kept the chaos to a minimum. During one of
the times Johnny was transferring a patient from the hallway to a treatment
room, Dixie let him know that Bill had indeed had a concussion but
no other injuries. Roy had overhead her as he was walking by and smiled.
Before either man could move another step, the nurse from the plane
crash walked up. She had a huge smile on her face as she let the two
men know that the heart had arrived in time and the surgery was a huge
The two men were kept busy helping out in the emergency room. The
staff was thankful for the extra hands. When the day finally wound
down, Roy and Johnny were both grateful that the earthquake had not
done as much damage as originally thought. Most of the patients that
had been brought in had sustained minor to moderate injuries. There
were a few trauma cases, but not as many as had been expected. The
reports coming in gave everyone a sense of relief as the death toll
was relatively small.
It was a day no one would forget. But everyone would always be grateful
for the outcome that could have been so much worse.
Johnny took a deep breath before starting up the steps that would
lead him into the LA County Court house. Roy was supposed to meet him
inside. They were there to testify at the trial of the men who had
set the fire at the Stevens Warehouse killing four workers and three
firefighters. It had made Johnny sad to think that these two men had
also been members of the fire department before one let his anger take
over and the other his prejudice. As she reached for Nicole’s
hand, his thoughts went back to that day and the events that led him
to be standing in front of the court house today.
Roy and Johnny had been at the academy checking out the files on the
new recruits. They were both pleased with what they were seeing. Both
men looked up when the tones sounded, ran for their vehicle and started
praying as they roared towards the fire that was raging in the Stevens
Warehouse. They both knew that it was going to be bad. The warehouse
housed barrels of paint, pain thinner and gasoline for construction
workers. The caller had said the warehouse was already fully involved.
Johnny’s arson sense was going full blast. His thoughts immediately
were ones of the possibilities of this fire being a case of arson.
The fire was fully involved when the fire department arrived. Roy
and Johnny pulled up and just stared. They had both been involved in
fighting large fires before, but this was huge. It seemed like two
square blocks were on fire.
Taking a deep breath, Roy led the way as the two Fire Chiefs headed
towards the command post that had been set up. They both knew that
this was going to be a hard fire to fight and there would probably
be several injuries if not deaths related to it.
As they approached the command center, the hair on the back of Johnny’s
neck stood up. His arson instincts were kicking in and he knew that
this was going to be a bad one. He just prayed that he would be able
to contain it before too much damage was done. As Roy joined the group
of fire personnel discussing the plan of attack, Johnny moved off to
the side a little to observe what was going on around them without
anyone really knowing that was what he was doing. Crews were moving
all over. Some were relieving others who were taking well deserved
Johnny watched the movements of the firefighters as they followed
the orders that were given them by their Captains. He kept a careful
eye on each one to see if they were following orders or if anyone was
doing something that was out of the ordinary. As his eyes scanned the
fire scene, they fell on one firefighter who looked out of place. He
seemed to be looking around to see if anyone was watching him instead
of paying attention to what he was doing and he was hiding something.
The hair on the back of Johnny’s neck stood higher.
As Johnny watched the firefighter, a large knot began to form in
his stomach. The man was lighting a rag that even from as far away
as Johnny was standing, he could tell was soaked in gasoline. But what
really made the knot grow was when Johnny noticed the large drums that
were standing in the corner of the warehouse. He saw the words gasoline
and paint thinner and knew they were in trouble. Before the man could
even get the rag lit, Johnny was running towards him yelling at the
other firefighters to get out of there.
Seeing who was yelling, the crews dropped their lines and ran for
their rigs. Johnny was headed right toward the arsonist without noticing
what was going on around him. With a burst of speed, he tackled the
arsonist just before he was able to throw the rag anywhere near any
of the large drums. The two men fought as the arsonist tried to get
away from Johnny so he could finish the job he had started. But Johnny
was not about to let him get away.
Just as Johnny slugged him in the jaw, he felt a huge weight on his
back and someone pulling him off. He thought it might be someone trying
to help him until he was swung around and a fist slammed into his jaw.
Then he knew the man had an accomplice. Just as the fist started towards
Johnny’s stomach and hands grabbed him from behind, he realized
that others were grabbing the two men who he had been after. He smiled
as he saw Vince and Roy with the guy who had hit him and Crockett and
Chet with the one he had been struggling with. As he looked at the
two men, his heart sank. One of them was Jim Alder, one of the guys
who had been in the class ahead of him at the academy and who had been
a great help to him.
“Jim, what is going on man? What are you doing?” Johnny
couldn’t believe that a man who had given his life to the department
would be the cause of so much destruction. Before he could get an answer
there was a loud explosion that sent debris raining down for several
hundred feet around the building. Crews grabbed their hoses and ran
back, trying to tame the beast that two of their own had started. But
before they could get very far, another explosion occurred, this time
throwing firefighters into the air. He didn’t wait to hear what
his friend had to say, Johnny ran to help where he could.
By the time the fire was out, three of the firefighters had died from
the injuries they had received from the explosion. When the crews were
cleaning up, they found the bodies of four workers who had been trapped
in a backroom when a large crate had fallen over. It was determined
later that Jim Alder and Rod Cranston had tipped the crate over in
their hurry to get out of the building when they first started the
fire. So not only had the two men been charged with arson, they had
been charged with seven counts of murder. Johnny still couldn’t
understand what made the two men do what they had done.
Nicole knew her husband was remembering that day and squeezed his
hand. He smiled at her support and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
Roy and Joanne were standing just inside the doorway that led down
the hall to the courtroom they would be in. “Well, Junior, are
you ready to do this?” Roy was having a difficult time understanding
what motivated the two men, too.
“As ready as I’ll ever be, Pally.” Johnny smiled
at the man who was closer than a brother to him.
The four turned and walked down the hallway to meet the District Attorney
who was waiting for their arrival. Nicole and Joanne walked into the
courtroom. Since they were testifying, Johnny and Roy had to wait outside
until it was their turn to be called. Neither man was looking forward
to what lay ahead and their hearts were burdened that two men who had
served the LA County Fire Department for so many years would do something
Nicole and Joanne had listened as the trial seemed to go on forever.
Every witness the prosecution had introduced was grilled endlessly
by the defense to try to discredit them. The two women shared a disgusted
look as the defense once again tried to ask questions that had already
been either answered or objected to and sustained by the Judge.
The Judge was irritated and called an early recess for lunch. As Nicole
and Joanne walked out of the courtroom, they saw both Roy and Johnny
wearing a hole in the floor just outside the door. Grabbing the arms
of the two men, the two women led them to the closest diner to get
Johnny and Roy both wondered what was taking so long inside the courtroom,
but neither man asked what was going on. Both wanted to prove that
their testimony and motives were above reproach. Joanne and Nicole
both knew the men were curious, but marveled at their self-control
in not asking any questions. Finishing lunch quickly, the four headed
back to the courthouse knowing that the two men were the next two witnesses
to be called.
Since Johnny was the one that stopped the two men, Roy was called
as a witness first. Johnny didn’t sit once while he waited his
turn to be called. When the bailiff came out of the courtroom, Johnny
took a deep breath, held his head high and entered the room.
Jim Alder and Rod Cranston both watched as Johnny walked down the
center aisle towards the witness stand. They both knew that there was
no way they were going to discredit Johnny. Their attorney had made
a fool of himself trying to discredit Roy. As Johnny got close to the
stand, Jim knew his life was over. Johnny had asked him at the scene
why he had done it, but he had never answered. No one would ever know
that the reason for his actions was his hatred for Johnny.
Johnny had been in the class behind Jim in the academy and had looked
to the man for guidance. But the kid was smart and soon surpassed him
in both ability and knowledge. Through the years, Johnny seemed to
advance faster than Jim did and had become very successful in the arson
division. Jim had tried but couldn’t get any higher than the
rank of Captain where Johnny had become a Chief what seemed like years
ago. Then Rod Cranston came on scene as Jim’s engineer. Rod was
a bigot who could get no higher than engineer and used Jim’s
dismay about Johnny to his advantage. He used every opportunity he
could find to needle Jim about Johnny’s success and Jim’s
lack of it. Seeing the anger and resentment grow each time he said
anything, Rod kept up his “attack” until he knew that Jim
would go along with his plan.
Both men had been getting deeper and deeper into trouble. What no
one knew was that their Battalion Chief had issued a final verbal warning
right before the arson. He had been trying to work with both men, but
had reached the end of his rope. He had told them that unless they
both got their act together, they were fired. Rod used this warning
to put his final plan into place. Knowing Jim was angry, Rod used that
anger before Jim could calm down and back out. They were going to gest
back at the fire department. Neither man really wanted anyone to die;
it was just a way to take out their anger. At least that is what Jim
thought. Rod had secret hopes that any “non-white” firefighter
that responded to these incidents would be either so severely injured
they couldn’t return to the department or lost their lives. He
believed that only white firefighters were the good firefighters—all
the others were worthless trash. The other thing that Jim would never
know was that this was only the beginning of Rod’s plans. Being
firefighters, Rod figured they would burn down several buildings and
never get caught. He hadn’t counted on John Gage.
Rod elbowed Jim and whispered in his ear. Jim grew angrier and jumped
up from his seat to yell at Johnny. When the bailiff ran over to grab
him to sit him down, Jim used the distraction and grabbed the bailiff’s
gun. He pointed it at Johnny and pulled the trigger. As Roy ran to
Johnny’s side and the bailiff fought with Jim, the gun went off
a second time and Roy fell on top of Johnny.
Just as the bailiff was getting control of the gun, it was turned
between the two fighting men and went off a third time. This time it
was Jim who fell to the floor. Jim Alder was dead.
Rod had tried to escape, but the two security guards who had entered
at the sound of the first shot had subdued him rather quickly without
any trouble. When the shooting stopped Nicole and Joanne ran to their
husbands’ sides knowing that it was bad.
Emergency and police personnel were hurrying back and forth all over
the courtroom. Everyone had been moved to the back corner of the room
where the police could get eye witness statements. They had interviewed
Joanne and Nicole first and let them return to their injured husbands.
It didn’t surprise either woman when the stations that were responded
were the stations where their children worked. Nor were they surprised
when Chief Stanley arrived on scene.
The two men were loved by everyone and prayers were being offered
all over the room. The outcome for both men was not looking good.
Seeing who had been injured and the severity of the injuries, Hank
Stanley radioed for additional squads. He didn’t want the DeSoto
and Gage children to have to worry about the care of their fathers.
If what he suspected was correct, the outcome was not going to be positive
and he didn’t want them to have to wonder if it was their fault.
He was relieved when LA responded that different squads had already
been dispatched. He had no sooner put down the handy-talkie when the
new sets of paramedics arrived.
Michaela, Jason, and Matthew reluctantly gave up the care of their
fathers to the newly arrived paramedics. Needing to do something, they
joined Crystal, Megan and Michael in guiding their mothers to an area
close to where the two men were being worked on but far enough away
to be out of the way. Johnny had received a bullet to the left chest
very near his heart. Roy had been shot in the back, but also on the
left side hitting one lung and possibly shattering some ribs causing
one to puncture the other lung.
Nicole turned to Joanne and pulled her into a supporting hug. “Joanne,
they have lived through so many situations when their chances were
almost nil. But I think the Lord may be calling them home. Remember
when the Pastor said that nothing can take us from this earth until
God is finished with us and then nothing can keep us here when He is?”
“Yes, I remember.” Before Joanne could say anymore, Hank,
Chet, Marco and Mike joined the two families.
“But they have both come through difficult times before. They’ll
make it again.” Chet knew just like the rest of the group that
Roy and Johnny probably wouldn’t make it. He just was not ready
to let go.
“Chet, they have both been through so much—car accidents,
plane crashes, fires, and more—but as Nicole was saying our Pastor
told us recently that nothing can take us from this earth until God
is finished with us and then nothing can keep us here when He is. No
matter how much we want them to stay or they want to stay, if their
work for the Lord is finished here, nothing can keep them here.” Joanne
took comfort as Chris put his arm around his mother. By this time,
Jenny, Mark, Melissa, and Michelle had arrived. Although no one had
noticed, the local TV stations had crews covering the trial. After
all, it was two firefighters who were being charged with arson and
murder. And the mayhem at the trial was sensational news. The kids
had seen the coverage and needed to be with their families for support.
The group that had moved to the jury box watched as Johnny and Roy
were loaded onto gurneys and rushed out the doors to the waiting ambulances.
Vince Howard and Ron Crockett led a group of police officers that protected
the families and friends from the media frenzy as they made their way
to their cars to head to Rampart.
The hospital was wall to wall firefighters. Some were on duty and
in uniform but it seemed that every available L.A. County firefighter
was somewhere in the halls or emergency room waiting area waiting for
word on the condition of two very special men.
Nicole and Joanne entered the emergency room doors and smiled as
the waiting firefighters split to either side of the hallway snapping
to attention and giving the two women a path down the middle towards
the nurses’ desk. Although they were both prepared for what
they knew lay ahead, it didn’t keep either of them from letting
the tears flow down their cheeks. They may know what lay ahead today,
but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Their family members
were close behind with Hank Stanley, Marco Lopez, Chet Kelly, and
Mike Stoker bringing up the rear. Dr. Kelly Bracket had left his
administrative office to “get his hands dirty” and be
there for two very special friends. He was the one who met the two
women and quietly led the group into the treatment room where both
of their husbands lay.
“The parting of the blue sea” as Chet had called the splitting
of the firefighters became a large group again while everyone watched
them enter the treatment room. No one said a word because they all
knew they were going to lose both men. Everyone wanted to be there
when it happened.
Just before he closed the door to the treatment room to give the group
what little privacy he could, Hank took one look at the crowd and realized
they were clogging up the emergency waiting room and hallway. Since
it was a nice day outside, he made a decision. “Gentlemen…” he
was amazed that at that one word everyone grew quiet, “we are
causing a problem here. Why don’t you go outside on the lawn
and clear the emergency room for those who really need it? I’ll
be sure to let you know the second something happens.” There
was no grumbling or complaining—just a quiet, orderly, peaceful
exit out to the lawn. Dixie shook her head in amazement and let the
tears flow. Hank entered the room letting the door closely slowly behind
him as the realization hit them all that this was the time to say goodbye.
Joanne and Nicole were the first ones to approach the two gurneys.
Sharing watery smiles and taking deep breaths both women looked at
“Johnny, it is time for you to rest now. You have taken care
of so many people and given so much that it is your turn. The kids
and I will be fine. Michelle, Melissa and Mark will be graduating from
the Academy next year and all our kids will make you proud. You made
my life complete. You are my soul mate. I heard someone say once that ‘they
say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate
them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.’ Johnny,
it will take more than two lifetimes to forget you. You are a very
special person, Johnny. I want you around for the rest of my life,
but whatever is best for you is ok. You’ll always be in my heart.
This isn’t really goodbye. It is goodnight. I will see you ‘in
the morning’ in Heaven.” Nicole did not try to stop the
tears from flowing.
“Roy, you are my other half. You deserve to rest and it is alright
if you let go. Our kids will be there to help me whenever I need it.
You have given me such joy over our life together. Like Nicole told
Johnny ‘they say it takes a minute to find a special person,
an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire
life to forget them.’ Roy, there are enough lifetimes to make
me forget you. It is alright for you to let go if that is what you
need to do. I, too, am not saying goodbye, but goodnight. I will see
you ‘in the morning’ in Heaven.” Joanne didn’t
try to hold her tears back either.
Joanne and Nicole remained by their husbands’ sides as each
member of the group stepped up to say goodbye to very special men who
would leave empty spots in the lives of everyone they had met.
Just as the last of the group said goodbye, they were amazed to see
that both men opened their eyes. It seemed they had just enough strength
to talk to the ones they loved so the group congregated around the
two men. Johnny was the first to try to speak. “Nicole, I love
you and know you will be alright. And I know that our kids will act
in a way that would make me proud of them. Please let any of my grandkids
know that I would have loved them and I will see them again someday.
You are my soul mate and I know it is the time to let go.” He
smiled as Nicole leaned over and gave him a kiss. He had been glad
when he could get out what he wanted to say with the little strength
he had left.
“Joanne, I love you and had no plans to leave you today. But
like Johnny, I know it is time to let go. You will be taken care of
by all our family and I know you are in good hands. Like Johnny said
let my grandkids know I would have loved them and will see them again
someday. You are special to me, Joanne.” Roy received a kiss,
too. Roy was glad his strength didn’t give out on him, either,
before he could let his wife know how much he loved her.
Feeling a strong wave of pain, Johnny looked at Roy. “Are you
ready, Pally?” He shared one last kiss with Nicole.
“Yes, I am, Junior. It’s time to go.” Roy shared
one last kiss with Joanne. Then, as with most of the events in their
lives, Roy and Johnny both closed their eyes for the last time.
It was only a few minutes later when both men took their last breath
at exactly the same moment. “They shared their lives, it is only
fitting their share their last breath.” Nicole kissed her husband
on the forehead. It was another twenty minutes before any of the families
could pull themselves from the room even though Kel had verified the
two men’s death within a minute after it happened.
As they stepped out of the building Joanne and Nicole locked arms
and walked towards the waiting firefighters. Knowing it was over, Hank
handed Nicole the bullhorn she reached out for. “L.A. County’s
finest—thank you for your support. Two very special men in our
lives and in each one of yours are now in the hands of God. Please
keep them close to your hearts and remember their love and dedication
as you face each day. Make them proud of each one of you.” She
would have said more, but her heart was breaking and the tears streamed
down her face.
Hank, Mike, Chet and Marco stepped up to the two women and led them
back to their waiting families. As the Gage and DeSoto children led
their mothers towards the waiting cars, the strains of Amazing Grace
grew as the firefighters as one started singing.
Joanne and Nicole watched as the group as one turned to face the hospital,
saluted, and then turned to head towards their cars all while singing
The sunrise the morning of Johnny and Roy’s funeral was one
that Nicole and Joanne knew their husbands would have enjoyed. Sitting
on the Gage’s deck each with a cup of coffee, the two women shared
the quiet time. They were thankful for all the support they had received
and knew there would be more, but they wanted a few minutes alone.
Nothing was said as quietly each one of the Gage and DeSoto children
made their way to the back yard with breakfast. When they were all
gathered, Nicole smiled at each one. “You all know you were loved
by the two men whose lives we will be celebrating today. Keep a part
of them in your heart and remember to honor them and God.”
It was still two hours before the funeral but Hank Stanley and Mike
Stoker were trying to make some decisions. The funeral was to take
place at the Fire Academy auditorium. But even this early, the place
was packed wall to wall and more firefighters from across the country
as well as members of the general public who had been in contact with
both men were arriving by the groves.
Hank slipped into his office at the Academy and quickly dialed a number.
He was pleased when he was able to make arrangements to move the funeral
on such short notice to a larger auditorium. Taking a deep breath,
he headed back to the front of the auditorium. He stopped to talk to
Nicole, Joanne, the funeral director, Mike, Marco and Chet. Then he
made his way to the podium and microphone. “May I have your attention,
please?” He wasn’t surprised at how quickly everyone stopped
their quiet murmuring. “We would like to accommodate everyone
who has come to honor our two friends. There is no more room available
for anyone to enter this room. So we will be moving this gathering
to the Carson Center.” Hank could not bring himself to use the
word funeral. “The police will be escorting us to the Center,
so if everyone can quietly and quickly make their way to their vehicles,
we will move as quickly as possible.”
Chet had volunteered to stand at one end of the entrance to the Academy
to let those who were still arriving know the change of plans and give
them directions to the new location. Marco had volunteered to stand
at the other end. They both stayed at their post until 45 minutes before
the funeral when two young police officers relieved the two men so
they could honor their friends.
When the two men arrived at the Carson Center, they were thankful
that their families and the original Station 51 A-Shift crew had saved
them seats. Even though this auditorium was at least three times larger
than the Academy auditorium, there were still people who were outside
the doors because there was no room inside. They knew they shouldn’t
have been surprised at the number of people that turned out, but none
of them had expected that many.
Chris, as the eldest of the DeSoto/Gage clan was “elected” (he
actually volunteered to spare his siblings and cousins) to give the
eulogy and read the poem
‘A Firefighter’s Prayer.’
When I’m called to duty, God, where flames may rage,
give me strength to save a life, whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child before it is too late,
or save an older person from the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout,
and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling to give the best in me,
to guard my every neighbor and to protect his property.
And if, according to my fate, I am to lose my life,
please bless with your protecting hand – my children and my wife.
“The poem I just read for my dad and ‘Uncle’ Johnny
was demonstrated over and over in their lives. They were never afraid
to give it all they had and even more. There were times when my brother,
sisters, and cousins would watch as they did more than anyone else
to aid a victim. More times than not, there were times when it seemed
like nothing could be done because the fire was too great or the situation
was too risky. But my dad or Uncle Johnny would rush in anyway not
even thinking about the fact they might lose their life. The victims
always came first.
“When they started working with the new recruits at the fire
station, I watched them instill the values that made my dad and Uncle
Johnny who they were. That group of firefighters and those who will
train at this facility in the future will be better because of the
time and dedication given by two men who would tell you they were ‘just
doing our job’. William Stoker and I will be taking over the
training at the academy. My dad and Uncle leave mighty big shoes to
fill and I doubt we will ever completely fill them, but we will do
everything we can to continue in their footsteps. Not only will our
families feel a loss, but we know that Rampart General Hospital and
the L.A. County Fire Department will feel the loss, too. And, looking
out over this crowd, knowing there are who knows how many in the fields
and watching at home, I am sure there are others who will feel the
loss as well. But just remember this—they will always be in our
hearts and would want us to remember the good memories. Good night
Dad and Uncle Johnny. We will ‘see you in the morning’ when
it is our turn to join you in Heaven.”
Hank stepped up to the podium to replace Chris. “The L.A. Fire
Department does feel the loss as well and would like to honor the dedication
these two men demonstrated over the years. Headquarters had decided
that we will name the Fire Academy auditorium the Roy DeSoto/John Gage
Memorial Auditorium and their pictures will be hung on either side
the front door. A plaque reading: “As you enter this building,
do so with pride and dedication in honor of Roy DeSoto and John Gage,
mentors who cared.” He had to wait for ten minutes as the audience
rose to their feet and the applause thundered throughout the building
As the funeral ended, the original Station 51 A-shift engine crew
took their places on Engine 51 after Roy and Johnny’s bodies
were placed in the hose bed. Chris and Matthew took their father’s
places in the Station 51 Squad to lead the procession to the cemetery.
The route went past Station 51 and the on duty shift stood at attention
as the line of fire and emergency vehicles went by even though the
procession went on for 30 minutes.
There was a double rainbow in the sky as Chief Roy DeSoto and Chief
John Gage were laid to rest beside Mayan, Melinda, and Melanie Gage
in a spot where the sunsets would be beautiful.
Chris DeSoto and William Stoker took over as the heads of the Fire
Academy using the curriculum Roy and Johnny had developed. Roy and
Johnny would have been proud as Chris and William had the same compassion
and desire to train only the best possible firefighters to serve in
the L.A. County Fire Department. Both young men would say they would
never be as good as Roy and Johnny, but others felt they were continuing
the excellent training set into place by two very special men.
Jason and Crystal DeSoto; Matthew, Michael, Michelle, Michaela, Mark,
Melissa, and Megan Gage; William and Brandon Stoker; Grace, Noelle,
and Joshua Lopez; and Aaron, Larissa, and Kenneth Kelly did take over
the reins and made as much of a name for themselves as the original
Station 51 A-shift had. The tradition started the first day the original
crew had met would follow their families for generations to come. All
would be proud to share the firefighting history as well as the love
shared by their families
The years following had seen weddings, births, and honors for all
of the offspring of the original crew. There were also the hard times
like when Nicole’s father died from West Nile Encephalitis in
October, 2002, and Chet Kelly was killed by a drunk driver a year later.
But the one thing that would remain in the hearts of everyone was the
love and faith of Johnny and Nicole Gage and the love of life they
left in the hearts of their families and friends.
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