Firefighters remembered at Dodger Stadium

Firefighters remembered at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES -- Bagpipers played somber tones on the field at Dodger Stadium Saturday morning to celebrate the lives of two Los Angeles firefighters, Captain Tedmund "Ted" Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones, at a memorial service.

The two were killed Aug. 30., when their truck plunged off a mountain road in the Angeles National Forest as they searched for an escape route for a group of inmate-firefighters who became trapped by the flames while battling the Southern California Station fire that is still burning and has destroyed 160,000 acres of land.

With 300 fire trucks placed around Dodger Stadium and two large American flags draped over the stadium entrance, an estimated 8,000 uniformed personnel from around the country, all with a black ribbon around their badges, attended the public ceremony, as well as Vice President Joe Biden, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Senator Barbara Boxer as well as 150 other political and civic dignitaries.

"This was an amazing tribute to these two fallen heroes," said Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt. "Just to watch the outpouring of all the firefighters from around the nation, particularly from Los Angeles County and the city of L.A. was unbelievably touching and it shows what a strong family they are and how they really do come out and make sure that their brethren are remembered."

When approached about doing the service at the stadium, the McCourt family handed over the facility for no cost.

"We are a part of this community as well and it was simply from one family to another," said McCourt. "The Dodgers are a family and a part of this great community and these firefighters are very much a family, so I think it was just a very natural thing to do and the way that everyone here, in this organization, gave of themselves to participate in this service."

"We want to thank the Dodger family and especially Frank and Jamie McCourt," said Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Deputy John Tripp in his opening remarks. "They opened up their house to allow us to have this celebration."

Purple and black were the colors of the day covering presentation area on the field as well as the bunting circling the club level of the stadium. Fire hoses draped the front of the Dodgers press box. On the field, special bases were made with the names of the fallen heroes stenciled on them. Hundreds of firefighters came out in the early morning hours to personally wipe down most of the 56,000 seats in the stadium. One fire captain was overheard saying on the radio, "We are guests in the Dodgers house, let's make sure we keep it clean."

Schwarzenegger and Biden were two of the dozen people who spoke at the service.

"We were all blessed by these two men," said Schwarzenegger. "We will continue to be blessed by their example and their spirit. Their deeds and their names live on. Ted Hall and Arnie Quinones, you are giants in my eyes and the eyes of all Californians."

"I remember it was only in retrospect that I was able to gain strength from the memorial service that I attended for my wife and my daughter," said Biden, recalling his first wife and daughter's service in 1972 after being killed in a car accident. "I said to the [firefighter's] families 'You will draw strength from this, if not today -- tomorrow, next month and next year. I know no one can ever replace your husband, your dad, your son, your brother -- but I also know the fire service, I know it well and it's not an exaggeration to say that for the rest of your lives you will have them at your back."

"He spoke very personally and eloquently," said McCourt of the vice president's speech. "As did the governor and the governor has been through a lot. The station fire has been a real tragedy and it's something, I think, [that] has frightened a lot of people -- it has driven many out of their homes and damaged a huge amount of property, but what dwarfs that, of course, is that it took two human lives and that's why we are all here today."

Toward the end of the service, chief deputy John Tripp recalled how in the old days when a firefighter went down in the line of duty a special signal of 5,5,5 was sent via telegraph. In the end a bell rang the signal . The bell rang out through a stadium silent in respect for two fallen heroes.

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.