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LAFD firefighters honor brother killed in house fire

While fighting the fire, a ceiling collapsed on him and five other firefighters

The Daily News of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — It was a funeral befitting “an authentic hero.”

Fallen firefighter Glenn Allen was celebrated with full honors among thousands of fellow firefighters Friday for his selfless sacrifice for Los Angeles.

“This is Glenn’s badge,” said Los Angeles Fire Chief Millage Peaks, holding up the shield worn during 36 years of service, during a standing-room only service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. “I’m proud of him.

“He is the true definition of an authentic hero.”

It was only last week that the 61-year-old firefighter/paramedic had rolled out of Station 97 above Studio City to douse a mansion blaze in the Hollywood Hills.

The San Fernando Valley native was a family man within a year of retirement who had looked forward to the birth of his first grandson.

He was a fireman’s firefighter of few words and many deeds, who had risked his life from his early days to save imperiled residents from Sylmar to East Los Angeles.

He was a devout man and devoted friend, his co-workers and fellow churchgoers said. And a firehouse cook known for one single recipe of fiery Tex-Mex stew.

“Firefighter Glenn Allen was an everyday servant of God,” said Pat McOsker, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, his voice breaking. “Like our Lord on Palm Sunday, in the end he went up the hill to known danger, on a calling to serve others.”

While fighting the blaze, a ceiling collapsed on him and five other firefighters. Allen died two days later on Feb. 18 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

A day later, his 6-pound, 7-ounce grandson was born.

He was the first Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter to be killed in the line of duty since March 2008, when Brent Lovrien was killed in an explosion near Los Angeles International Airport.

As such, he was the 61st Los Angeles firefighter to die during an emergency call in the department’s 125-year history.

“Day after day, all of you put your own personal safety and lives on the line in order to protect us,” Cardinal Roger Mahony said during the two-hour nondenominational service. “We are grateful to you for your commitment, and your unheralded heroism.”

Early Friday morning, an estimated 5,000 firefighters and police from Fresno to San Diego had marched from City Hall to the cathedral.

Hearts were heavy. Faces were solemn. And firefighters’ polished shoes rose in unison as a soft drizzle pelted the procession passing beneath crossed aerial ladders to signify a firefighter’s highest honor.

But the sun shone briefly on Bunker Hill as Allen’s casket, accompanied by bagpipes, passed through the church’s carved bronze portal.

And firefighters’ shields, with black stripes of mourning, glistened bright inside the cavernous sanctuary.

“Glenn did not lose his life for nothing - he gave his life protecting life and property as he was sworn to do,” said fire Chaplain Danny Leon. “But Lord, sometimes your will for us, we simply don’t understand.”

Glenn L. Allen was born Oct. 28, 1949, and was raised in the San Fernando Valley through early junior high school before briefly moving to Pacifica in the Bay Area.

His father, James, had been a Los Angeles fire engineer, and Glenn followed in his father’s footsteps. He worked 18 years as an ambulance driver and paramedic before becoming a firefighter in 1992.

For the past 16 years, Allen had been a stalwart at Station 97, perched atop Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Mulholland Drive.

He was bright, said his co-workers. Soft-spoken and protective of his family and friends. And a professional mentor for the entire firehouse.

He was also a skilled woodworker and would-be pilot who would give hand-carved Christmas ornaments to the entire station.

“He was a very giving man, he always gave,” said his friend, Jerry Updegraft, one of 17 firefighters to pay tribute from Station 97. “He never expected anything in return.”

Behind Allen’s flag-draped coffin sat a table with the fireman’s yellow helmet, fireman’s jacket and boots.

Thousands of first-responders fixed their gaze on the fallen hero as such dignitaries as Gov. Jerry Brown, flanked by Los Angeles city and county officials, looked on.

Following each tribute, each approached the first pew and embraced Allen’s widow.

“It is with a heavy heart that the City of Angels grieves for a fallen guardian,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who could barely hold back tears. “This first-responder is our first angel.

“Glenn Allen may you rest in peace.”

During the service, a towering organ trumpeted such hymns as Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”

The Rev. Ron Svendsen of Valley Presbyterian Church of North Hills praised his firefighter friend and devoted church volunteer.

“A true friend is willing to give up his life for you,” Svendsen said, during a sermon on sin and Christian salvation. “And that is exactly what Glenn Allen did.

“He gave his life for a community.”

Firefighters recited their oath of office. Those of Station 97 struck a fireman’s bell. And a color guard folded the flag that once flew atop the firehouse.

A dozen bagpipers played “Amazing Grace.” And to a heavy bass drum and snare, pallbearers wheeled the fallen firefighter up the aisle, out the door.

And into the eternal light.

Allen is survived by his wife, Melanie; his daughter, Rebecca McPhee; his son-in-law, Brandon McPhee; his grandson; his mother, Alberta Holtze; a brother, Bruce Allen, and a sister, Deborah Abrams.

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