Fire chiefs from departments in the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles County were recognized Thursday, May 11, for their teamwork in handling a mass shooting that killed 11 and injured nine in a Monterey Park dance studio nearly four months ago.
Standing outside the Los Angeles Fire Department’s training center near Dodger Stadium, the Los Angeles Area Fire Chiefs Association and Monterey Park Fire Chief Matthew Hallock presented plaques to each of the fire departments that responded to the Jan. 21 shooting, as well as the dispatch center that helped coordinate the response.
“This is aimed at highlighting … what it means to our communities to train and respond as one,” said Burbank’s fire chief, who is also the association’s president.
The honored departments:
Monterey Park Fire Department
Los Angeles Fire Department
Arcadia Fire Department
Alhambra Fire Department
San Gabriel Fire Department
South Pasadena Fire Department
Glendale Fire Department
The Verdugo Fire Communications Center
The Monterey Park Police Department was also especially recognized for its efforts the night of the shooting. Both Police Chief Scott Weiss and Fire Chief Hallock said several first responders were still affected by the scene they encountered.
About 10:30 p.m., while people gathered at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio to celebrate the Lunar New Year, Huu Can Tran, 72, opened fire on a large crowd inside and sparked the deadliest mass shooting in Los Angeles County history, officials have said.
Firefighters arrived and found 10 people dead and took 10 others to local hospitals for treatment of injuries. One of the injured died at the hospital.
Tran, still armed, later walked into the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in neighboring Alhambra, but was disarmed by an employee and fled, authorities have said. He was found the following day in Torrance but died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound before he could be taken into custody.
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Jon Chang, a Monterey Park fire engineer, was one of those who responded that night.
Chang said despite not knowing what to expect upon arrival, once he and other firefighters walked in and saw what had occurred, they focused on remaining calm and relied on their training.
“It’s still a healing process,” he said. “If there’s some sort of light that came from it, we came closer and we’ve been able to open up and talk about these things.”
Chief Hallock said as firefighters and police entered the building, they were still unsure of the shooter’s whereabouts.
Once it was determined the shooter had left, roughly 30 firefighters from multiple departments worked “in a record amount of time” to assess the victims and get the wounded to area hospitals.
“It was all hands on deck,” Hallock said of his department. “However, we were fortunate to have the incredible support of this region.”
He said two firefighters are still off dealing with the psychological impact of responding to the scene. The department has brought in peer counseling and mental-health professionals to speak with those who responded that night.
“There’s no mental preparation for something like that,” Hallock said.
Firefighters from 28 area agencies all train similarly for mass-casualty events so they are on the same page when a major event occurs requiring multiple agencies.
“That tragic evening, the city of Monterey Park was put on the map for all the wrong reasons,” Hallock said. “That said, it is the collaboration and support from the fire departments in the area that put this region on the map for all the right reasons.”
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