The day started and ended with a fiery sky ablaze with color – and when darkness fell, a bright white halo illuminated around the moon, watching down as candlelight flickered in honor of Los Angeles County firefighter Jonathan Flagler.
“For a day like today, nothing more fitting,” said Los Angeles County Fire Department Chaplin Vince Roldan, looking up at the sky.
A candlelight vigil drew hundreds of people in San Clemente to honor and remember Flagler, who died while battling a house fire in Rancho Palos Verdes on Jan. 6.
Flagler, 47, who was a San Clemente resident, was remembered by friends and fellow firefighters as caring and courageous, a family man with a keen sense of humor who adored his two teenage sons, Brody and Jack, and wife Jenny Johnson Flagler.
“Every once in a while you come across someone who stands out,” said fire Capt. Dave Gillotte. “He’s an amazing human being who stands above the norm. He stands better than better. And you know that when you meet him.”
Flagler was among the crew members from Fire Station 83 who responded to the blaze around 2 a.m. Thursday in the 30700 block of Tarapaca Road.
Flagler was overcome with smoke and fire while inside and issued a Mayday alert, Los Angeles County interim Fire Chief Anthony Marrone told reporters last week following the fire. He was rushed to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he died.
Fire investigators believe the fire was in the attic when firefighters arrived, Marrone said.
A memorial of flowers grew last week at his station house, No. 83, in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Marrone on Monday evening told a crowd of hundreds who filled the lawn of the Ole Hanson Beach Club in San Clemente that the outpouring from fellow firefighters from around the state and country has been overwhelming, and called Flagler “caring, selfless and brave.”
“He truly embodied our core values of courage, caring and community, both on and off the job,” he said.
Brandon Hendriks, pastor of the family’s church at Pacific Coast Church in San Clemente, started the night with a prayer, the sound of the ocean’s waves crashing in the distance, a choir singing “Amazing Grace” with the crowd.
“We pray you will give peace to all the brokenhearted gathered here tonight,” he said.
Gillotte asked everyone to pause to acknowledge the dangers of a firefighter’s job.
“It’s a sobering moment for us all. Every firefighter you see on the street … thank them,” he said. “We have a different job when we leave the house, when we go to work. Tonight we’re reminded of that.”
Roldan said the candlelight vigil was a fitting tribute to show the “light and the love that we all carry inside of us, to give that love to those who are hurting.”
“As a community, I know you are hurting right now. I look at this community and this family and I now everyone is going to be OK, eventually,” he said.
The union has also established a memorial fund to benefit the family. Donations can be sent to the Flagler Memorial Fund at F&A FCU, attention: Aymee Yanesa, 2625 Corporate Place, Monterey Park, 91754.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.