VAN NUYS — Four Los Angeles firefighters who were trapped in Box Canyon during last year's wildfires were honored at a luncheon ceremony Friday for their courage.
About 400 people attended the 13th annual Law Enforcement Awards at the Airtel Plaza Hotel.
The firefighters were from Engine Company 98 in Pacoima, the only group of honorees to receive a standing ovation for exceptional public service.
"They were running into the fires to save our homes and our livelihood," said Lee Kanon Alpert, president of the Valley Community Legal Foundation, which sponsored the lunch.
"It's time for the community to say thank you," Alpert said in a telephone interview Friday.
All four men, Capt. Jan Bernard, Firefighter Russell Nakamura, Engineer Cleveland Tipton and Firefighter Gary Carpenter, were burned last October when they responded to a brush fire in the Chatsworth area.
At the scene, the wind direction shifted suddenly and a wall of fire engulfed their truck and trapped the four firefighters.
This is the first year the foundation included firefighters among its law enforcement honorees.
"We will continue to include firefighters in the future," Alpert said. "They are as much law enforcement officers even though they don't carry guns or arrest people."
Others honored by the nonprofit organization were members of city and county law enforcement agencies for helping make neighborhoods safer.
Among those honored: Sgt. Richard Barton, a 21-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol; Sgt. Ronald E. Boudreaux, who has served in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for 23 years; Officer Chris Draper of the San Fernando Police Department, and Detective Craig Rhudy of the Los Angeles Police Department's Van Nuys Division, who has been with the agency for 21 years.
In addition, several students from San Fernando Valley schools were recognized for their essays. The winning essays responding to this year's topic, "Just Solutions," were written by fifth-grader Nakia Jackson of Woodlake Avenue Elementary School; Jessica Gottlieb, a sixth-grader from Welby Way Elementary School, and Daniel Treiman, an 11th-grader from John F. Kennedy High School.
The Valley Community Legal Foundation was founded in 1972 with the goal of enhancing respect for the law.