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Firefighter's badge passes through 3 generations and on to museum

The Dibble sisters dug through the ashes of their home in search of their grandfather's badge after the devastating Sayre fire last year. The early-1900s relic will be displayed at Fire Station 27.

November 16, 2009|By Esmeralda Bermudez

For years, the Dibble sisters kept their grandfather's badge safely tucked away in a jewelry box. A Los Angeles firefighter, he was killed in the line of duty in 1935. His silver badge, a photo and stories passed down by relatives were the only mementos left of him.

A year ago when the devastating Sayre fire ripped through the Oakridge Mobile Home Park, Cher and Pamela Dibble lost their home and their cherished keepsakes.

"We were left to dig through nothing but ashes with our two hands," said Cher Dibble. But as they sifted through the remains of their home, the badge was the only item they recognized. It was melted and burnt, but "you could see where it said Los Angeles fireman," she said.

On Saturday, Los Angeles firefighters did good by George Damron's charred badge. In a ceremony at the Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial in Hollywood, Fire Chief Millage Peaks presented Damron's granddaughters with a shiny new tribute badge. At the same time, they marked the one-year anniversary of the Sayre fire, which destroyed nearly all of the 600 mobile homes at Oakridge.

"It was very thoughtful," Cher Dibble said of the ceremony. "Even though so many years had passed, he was still considered one of them."

Damron, a generous man who went by the name "Tex," was 43 when he was killed fighting a chemical blaze in a commercial building in Boyle Heights in 1935. His badge was passed along through the generations, and though the Dibble sisters had never met their grandfather, they kept his badge as a memory of his sacrifice, they said.

They handed the damaged badge over to the Los Angeles Fire Department to be preserved and displayed in the landmark museum at Fire Station 27.

"We wanted to hold on to it," Cher Dibble said. "But we know it's important for it to be preserved."

"We honor our badge because we know how hard we work to get it and how hard we work to keep it," said Capt. Steve Ruda. "And the fact that these were the grandchildren of a firefighter meant they are part of our family. We have an obligation to take care of them."

esmeralda.bermudez @latimes.com

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