Firefighter runs L.A. Marathon’s 5k for colleague who died in Westchester explosion
By Lawrence Yee
For firefighter Tony Guzman, it’s symbolic that the Los Angeles Marathon’s LA Big 5k race went through Elysian Park. In Greek mythology, Elysium is the final resting place of heroes.
Guzman ran Saturday’s precursor to the marathon in memory of his late colleague Brent Lovrien. In 2008, Guzman and Lovrien — then both members of Fire Station 95 in Westchester — responded to a fire at an office supply store on South Sepulveda Boulevard. While they were investigating the fire, an explosion seriously injured both men.
Lovrien, just 35 years old, succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital. Guzman remained hospitalized for four days.
“He was a young guy,” Guzman recalled. “He didn’t have any wife and kids. But his loss was tragic because he reported for work that day and never went home. It really destroyed his family.”
Nearly 11 years to the day of the fire, Guzman joined the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund to honor the heroism of Lovrien and others during the race.
The official charity of the Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association, the fund has been operating for 112 years. Founded by L.A. city firefighters, its mission is to help the families of fallen and disabled firefighters, helping with medical/funeral costs, funding scholarships, and even organizing work parties to help with home repairs.
Michael Reddy, another firefighter who worked with Lovrien and Guzman that day, was so inspired by Lovrien that he named his firstborn son Brent. Tragically, Reddy lost his life in 2016.
“He developed cancer from all the firefighting and inhalation of toxic smoke, so he ended up dying, too. They were both under 40 years old,” Guzman said.
“Every year of the anniversary of their death, [the Fireman’s Fund] sends flowers to the families,” he continued. “Just that fact alone, the family knows that the fire department still remembers them and they’ll never forget them.”
Guzman also makes it a point to spend time with Lovrien’s mother on the anniversary of the explosion.
“She goes down to Fire Station 95. Every year on the anniversary they have lunch with her,” he said. “They still have Brent’s locker there with his turnout gear, just like he’s there every day. We never got rid of his locker, and that just warms her heart.”
“A lot of guys have moved on to different stations,” continued Guzman, now at LAX’s Station 80. “Even though some of the guys are new, she feels really welcome.”
After lunch, Lovrien’s mother and Guzman visit the site of the explosion for a private remembrance.
“We have one of Brent’s turnout boots and we put flowers in his boot,” Guzman added. “We’ll never forget him.”
Lovrien and Reddy are two of eight firefighters who were memorialized during L.A. Marathon weekend.
“Two of the eight were from one station — Station 95,” Guzman said. “I know the others, not as intimately as Brent and Mike, but it’s exciting for me to see that their families know we’re always here for them.”