From tragedy to triumph, a shift to remember for Anaheim Fire & Rescue personnel


For Anaheim firefighters, it was a work shift of epic swings, from the darkest of tragedies to the most joyful of outcomes.

The 24-hour period beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 19 captures how Anaheim Fire & Rescue personnel have to be ready for anything – and how a day that starts off ugly can end happily.

A handful of firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics from Station 5 and Station 9 recently took Behind the Badge through that dramatic day.

“We see a lot of sad situations,” said Anaheim Fire Capt./Paramedic Brad Hirst of Station 5. “It was nice for the shift to end the way it did.”

The 24-hour shift began with the grim discovery, at around 8:30 a.m., of the bodies of a married couple in the 700 block of South Morningstar Drive. Natalie Rangel-Diaz and John Thomas Diaz, both 32, died of gunshot wounds in an apparent murder-suicide, according to the Anaheim PD. Their 8-month-old daughter was found upstairs in the house unharmed.

Anaheim Fire personnel rolled to that grisly scene but were called off after the deaths were confirmed, said Firefighter EMT Andy Ingram of Station 9.

Then, just before 2 p.m., two armed men robbed a Fry’s Electronics Store in the 3300 block of East La Palma Avenue. One suspect was killed in a shootout with police following a one-hour standoff in a nearby auto lot; the other suspect was captured. Anaheim Fire personnel from Station 9 were on the scene but did not treat the suspect since he died, Ingram said.

By the time 4 a.m. Saturday rolled around, Anaheim Fire personnel were four hours away from calling it a day.

But at around 4:20 a.m., Firefighter EMTs Andy Ingram and Gary Vaughn, from Station 9, were travelling westbound on the 91 Freeway and heading to Kaiser Permanente Orange County — Anaheim Medical Center to pick up two paramedics, when they heard a call on the radio.

A woman was giving birth on the side of the same freeway, about two exits away.

Engine 9 “jumped the call,” which in firefighter parlance means they responded to it because they were closest.

As Engine 5 headed to the scene, Ingram and Vaughn rushed up to the SUV, parked on the right shoulder of the freeway near Kraemer Boulevard.

There, they found the mother sitting in the passenger seat, her newborn daughter in the arms of her father, who had been coached through the birth by Metro Net dispatcher Julie Thomas.

The couple’s other young children had watched the birth from the middle seat of the SUV.

“She’s the real hero,” Ingram said of the mother, who was too exhausted to talk to the Anaheim firefighters.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” the father kept on telling the firefighters.

Ingram and Vaughn used a bulb syringe to clear the newborn’s airways. They then plucked a yellow thermal blanket out of their OB Kit to dry and warm the baby.

Anaheim Fire & Rescue personnel help on emergency delivery of babies about a half-dozen times of year, but the circumstances of this call were unusual because of the location and because EMTs were the first to assist on what normally is a paramedic-level call.

Anaheim Fire Engineer and Paramedic Brian Pollema, from Station 5, clamped and cut the umbilical cord.

“I asked the father if he wanted to cut the cord, but he said no,” Pollema said.

Paramedics from Station 5, including Paul Erskine, joined by Firefighter Dave Shimagawa, then prepared the newborn and her parents for transport to the hospital.

About three hours later, the 24-hour shift for these members of from Station 5 and 9 was over.

“It the whole circle of life thing,” Hirst said of the action-packed day.