Thursday, August 05, 2010

City’s First Latino Fire Commissioner Honored with Lincoln Heights Fire Station Plaque


August 5, 2010 Tony Perez, (213) 761-2281 (cell)

Monica Valencia, (213) 473-7001

City’s First Latino Fire Commissioner Honored with Lincoln Heights Fire Station Plaque

Joe M. Sanchez, Jr., the City’s first Latino Fire Commissioner in modern times, was honored today by elected and community leaders for pioneering the way for Latinos in the Los Angeles Fire Department, and saving countless lives Citywide. Sanchez, joined by his family, was honored with a plaque unveiled today in front of the Lincoln Heights Fire Station 1.

Sanchez was a strong voice for minority hiring and training programs to better serve the City’s underserved Spanish-speaking residents.

"My job on the commission was to fight the status quo, and to demand that the department change to be more reflective of the City it served," said Sanchez, 77.

Sanchez was honored during a plaque dedication ceremony attended by Councilmembers Reyes, José Huizar and Tom LaBonge, County Supervisor Gloria Molina, Fire Commission President Genethia Hudley-Hayes, family members and community.

“I‘m proud to know that residents, especially our youth, can now visit Fire Station 1 and be inspired by reading what someone like Mr. Sanchez can accomplish if they have the compassion and will to do so,” said Councilmember Reyes, whose district includes the Lincoln Heights fire station. “The people of Los Angeles are indebted to Mr. Sanchez and his contributions.”

Sanchez, born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, moved to Los Angeles when he was eight years old. In September 1973, Mayor Tom Bradley appointed the longtime resident to the City’s Board of Fire Commissioners. Sanchez served as commission President Pro Tem from 1973-76 and as Vice President from 1977-78.

"There were some brave firefighters and fire department staff who helped us,” Sanchez said. “They knew the department had to change with the times and the population, and in doing so, would only become a better department. They fed me information. They helped me put together plans for a Spanish-language training program. They made the difference. They saved lives. They deserve our thanks."

Sanchez led the effort to boost Spanish-surnamed employees in the Fire Department from 67 to 300, and bilingual positions from 12 to 119.

He also implemented the Bilingual Emergency Training Program to teach firefighters emergency phrases in Spanish to help save lives of non-English speaking residents.

In addition, he published fire prevention brochures in Spanish and conducted a City-wide study to assure equal justice of all people, regardless of race, color, creed or national origin.

“With a fire department that today more accurately reflects the diverse makeup of Los Angeles, it might be easy to overlook the hard-fought contributions Joe Sanchez, Jr. made to ensure that diversity,” said Councilmember José Huizar. “Today, with this plaque, we are ensuring that we and future generations never forget the debt we owe this great man for all he did to improve the Los Angeles Fire Department and the City of Los Angeles.”

Councilmember LaBonge called Sanchez “a great man--a pioneer of equality, a leader in the community and a friend. His work has influenced the Los Angeles City Fire Department and will continue to do so. I'm proud to stand next to Joe's wife, Laura, in honoring Joe's work and service to Los Angeles.”

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