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Memorial Monday

Memorial Monday—Los Angeles Firefighter Dies in Collapse at Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Training Center

Memorial Monday

Memorial Monday—Los Angeles Firefighter Dies in Collapse at Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Training Center

Remembering Firefighter Frank Rodger Hotchkin
Incident Date:

September 27, 1980


Los Angeles Fire Department (CA)

Number of Line-of-Duty Deaths:


Los Angeles Firefighter Frank Hotchkin lost his life in the line of duty at the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Training Center at 1700 Stadium Way—next door to Dodger Stadium—on September 27, 1980.

The Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center

The Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” This two-story concrete building is 90,000 square feet with a tile roof. It trained over 250,000 sailors and Marines—with over 20,000 of those being during World War II.

In 1989, it was designated as California Historical Landmark No. 972. A plaque on the building is inscribed:

Designed as the largest enclosed structure without columns in the world by noted California architects Robert Clements and Associates, this Art Deco building, constructed between 1938 and 1941 by the WPA, is the largest and second-oldest Navy Reserve Center in the United Stages. It has served as the induction, separation, and training center for more than 100,000 sailors since World War II well as the filming site for countless motion pictures and television shows.

The main building contained mostly classrooms that were used on the weekend for training. Fortunately, no training was scheduled on the Saturday of the deadly fire—but there were maintenance workers in the building.

The Delayed Report

On the morning of September 27, 1980, at around 9:30 am, a maintenance worker noticed smoke coming from a vent. But because they were testing the boiler at the time, he didn’t think it was necessary to notify the fire department.  At around 10:30 am, he saw heavier smoke—but still didn’t realize how serious it was until 11:13, when he spotted burning embers falling from the vent.

After the fire department was alerted, firefighters arrived and went to work battling the stubborn fire. A total of forty companies with over 150 firefighters worked for two and a half hours to contain the blaze.

During the fight, a crew of twelve firefighters climbed to the roof to cut a vent hole to prevent the fire from spreading.  Unbeknownst to them, the fire—which at this point had been burning for hours—had already burned through 10 inches of wood under the shingles.  One of the firefighters, Frank Hotchkin, realized they needed more tools to vent the roof.  He went back to the truck to retrieve another pike and his crew recalls seeing him return to the roof after retrieving the tool. After he went to work, without warning, a portion of the roof collapsed— sending Firefighter Hotchkin through the burning roof into the building below.  He succumbed to his injuries and died.

Firefighter Frank Hotchkin

Despite being just twenty-four years old, Firefighter Hotchkin had earned a remarkable level of respect from both seasoned firefighters and newcomers during his three years of service to the Los Angeles Fire Department. His unwavering commitment, skill, and loyalty to his duty left a lasting impression at all of his duty assignments, including Stations 1, 12, 88, 39, and 83.

One of his co-workers remarked, “He was one of those rare individuals who could do any job, any time. He just cared so much about people. “

The Funeral

The funeral was held on Friday, October 3. It was a poignant and moving event, attended by at least 700 uniformed firefighters and apparatus from the Los Angeles Fire Department and neighboring jurisdictions. Father Fenwick of Saint David’s Episcopal Church and LAFD Chaplain Ray Martin presided over the service.

His funeral procession, led by twenty fire trucks and 35 chief cars, stretched for miles—moving from the church to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills. Firefighters and companies where he worked led the procession while hundreds of pedestrians, motorists, and office workers watched them make their way through the streets of North Hollywood.

At the burial site, Battalion Chief and Chaplain Ray Martin shared kind words about Frank. The honors culminated in a 21-gun salute performed by an Honor Guard of U.S. Marines, followed by a flyover by fire and police helicopters.

Frank was survived by his wife, June Marie, and his parents.

Honoring Firefighters Near and Far

The building where this tragic incident occurred was subsequently rebuilt and acquired by the City of Los Angeles. It now stands as a memorial in his honor and is known as the Los Angeles Fire Department Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center.

A piece of WTC steel was added to the site in memory of FDNY firefighters who died on—and since—September 11, 2001.


More About Memorial Monday

Memorial Monday is established to remember the sacrifice of firefighters who died in the line of duty before the National Memorial was created in 1981. On the last Monday of every month, a firefighter, or groups of firefighters, will be remembered as we share information about these firefighters and their sacrifice.