Los Angeles County Fire Department colleagues remembered veteran firefighter Jonathan Flagler at a memorial service Friday as a selfless hero, while his widow told nearly a thousand mourners at a Los Alamitos church that she’s lost “my best friend.”
“We’ll always remember the day we lost our brother,” department Chaplain Vince Roldan told mourners gathered at Cottonwood Church on Katella Avenue.
“Jon was a true hero. And he lost his life in the line of duty upholding his oath to protect the lives and property of the community he served. There is a scripture in the gospel of John that says `Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.’
“That’s the heart of a firefighter and it is also why we are all hurting so much right now.”
Flagler, 47, a husband and father of two teen-age boys, died Jan. 6. He was overcome by smoke and flames while battling a house fire that was reported about 2 a.m. in the 30700 block of Tarapaca Road in Rancho Palos Verdes.
He was pulled from the inferno by fellow firefighters from Fire Station 83, and was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Flagler is survived by his wife Jenny and their sons Brody and Jack.
Jenny Flagler, flanked by her two sons, also spoke to the gathering.
“Thank you for coming today to show your love for my husband,” she said. “John touched so many people’s lives, as is evident in the amount of people here showing their love for him. I do not have to explain how John was to anyone here today. His smile lit up a room; his laugh was infectious. It only took meeting him once to remember him forever.
“He is and always will be my best friend; and there will continually be a hole in my heart that will never fully heal. John was my soul mate, plain and simple. It takes some people decades to find the person they’re meant to be with. It takes some several tries to find them, and some never do. I am one of the lucky few that found him on the first try. All it took was one date, and I knew he was the man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.”
Flagler’s widow continued, “I didn’t get the rest of my life, but I got the rest of his. Our time together may have been cut short, but the happiness we shared together will last a lifetime. … I feel truly blessed by God to have had him by my side for 22 years. … I will miss John until the day we meet again in Heaven, and so will our boys. But we will never feel alone, because John has left behind a love that cannot be broken.”
Another speaker Friday was interim county Fire Chief Anthony Marrone.
“These past two weeks have been heartbreaking for all of us,” Marrone said. “When I first got the call — a call that no fire chief ever wants to get — that a firefighter has possibly lost his life in the line of duty, I remember heading straight to the hospital, early that morning. I was hoping and praying that everything would be OK; and it was not.
“I also remember feeling the weight of his loss, and the shadow it cast on his brothers and sisters who worked closely with him at Fire Station 83 and Battalion 14 and at his old Vernon Fire Department. …
“As a chief, I am grateful that we lead an organization of men and women who go out every shift to do a dangerous job. They do it without hesitation or regard for their own personal safety; and they do it with commitment and courage. … His watch ended, but his bravery never wavered. He is greatly missed by all of us, and he will never be forgotten.”
On Thursday, there was a flag ceremony in Vernon at the station where Flagler began his public firefighting career in 2002. The ceremony was at county Fire Station 13, which was previously known as Vernon Fire Department Station 1 before the county took over that city’s agency in 2020.
The station will be renamed the Jonathan Flagler Memorial Training Center.
Flagler was most recently assigned to county Fire Station 83. A flag that flew over that station was raised at Station 13 during Thursday’s ceremony, then later lowered, formally folded and presented to Flagler’s family.