Medal of Valor: Dept. honors 5 for heroic acts.

On Dec. 6, the LAFD hosted its annual Valor ceremony at Dodger Stadium. The ceremony, sponsored and produced by the LAFD Foundation, honored five who performed over and above the call of duty during 2022.

Congratulations to all! Following are abridged narratives of the events for which the Firefighters were honored. Narratives are courtesy the LAFD Foundation.


Medal of Valor
Engineer Mario Rodriguez

Medal of Merit
Firefighter/Paramedic Michael Jones

Letter of Special Commendation
Capt. II Michael Fortini
Firefighter II Tanner Keeler
Firefighter/Paramedic Dajon Johnson

Division of the Year
LAFD Cadet Program

Also highlighted were:

Community Impact Award
Whittier Trust

Corporate Impact Award
Banc of California


Medal of Valor:
Engineer Mario Rodriguez
Fire Station 1

Medal of Valor Engineer Mario Rodriguez

Engineer Mario Rodriguez was off duty on the afternoon of Aug. 8, 2022. He had pulled into the parking lot of his local gym with just enough time for a quick workout before having to rush home and drop his daughter off at her job.

As he approached the gym doors, he heard four gunshots directly behind him. He turned and saw a gunman fire a fifth shot into the windshield of a car just yards away.

Engineer Rodriguez shouted for other nearby gym patrons to take cover. He instinctively made his way toward the scene, suspecting that someone might need help. As he approached, he locked eyes with the gunman.

The tires screeched and smoked as the victim’s vehicle swayed in reverse. The assailant turned to face Engineer Rodriguez, then calmly walked toward an awaiting getaway car.

As the gunman and accomplices drove off, Rodriguez rushed to aid the driver of the still-drifting vehicle. Using his aluminum water bottle, Engineer Rodriguez smashed the driver’s window, shut off the car and assessed the driver—the only patient in the vehicle.

Engineer Rodriguez carefully pulled the patient from the seat, applied pressure to the wounds, and instructed the other bystanders to call 9-1-1. For roughly 20 minutes, Engineer Rodriguez performed CPR chest compressions while the patient fought for his life.

Despite Engineer Rodriguez’s best efforts, the patient passed away at the scene. Engineer Rodriguez later learned that
the patient was Gardiel Solorio, an off-duty Monterey Park Police Officer. Officer Solorio is believed to be the victim
of a botched robbery attempt. The information Engineer Rodriguez provided to law enforcement officials helped lead to the arrest of three suspects.

Medal of Merit:
Firefighter/Paramedic Michael Jones
Fire Station 64

Medal of Merit Firefighter/Paramedic Michael Jones

Late in the evening of Dec. 16, 2021, Firefighter/Paramedic Michael Jones and his partner on the rescue ambulance had just wrapped up an incident call. They were returning to the station when they heard a radio call about a nearby residential fire.

Their ambulance was a few blocks away from the fire, and initial reports stated that there were victims inside. Given their proximity to the incident address, they voluntarily attached themselves to the incident and were the first to arrive on the scene.

Upon arrival, the smoke was so low and thick that they initially headed toward the wrong house. Then Firefighter/Paramedic Jones and his partner were frantically approached by a woman who yelled that her grandmother was still inside the home.

The two Firefighter/Paramedics suited up in their turnout gear, grabbed their breathing apparatus and made for the front door. Firefighter/Paramedic Jones crouched to the ground, and then from below the smoke, he saw a silhouette just a few yards away. The person appeared to be in distress.

Without hesitation, Firefighter/Paramedic Jones took a deep breath, pulled the bottom of his flame-resistant hood over his nose, and entered the smoke-filled room with zero visibility.

Seconds later, Firefighter/Paramedic Jones emerged with the patient. He had felt his way across the living room to the dazed and disoriented patient. He managed to grab her in the darkness and pull her safely out of the front door.

The patient was quickly assessed and taken to the nearest Level 1 trauma center for burns and smoke inhalation treatment. She has since recovered from her injuries.

Letter of Special Commendation:
Capt. II Michael Fortini
Firefighter II Tanner Keeler
Fire Station 98

Capt. II Michael Fortini

On the morning of Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, Capt. II Michael Fortini and Firefighter II Tanner Keeler were headed home after a typical 24-hour shift. As they drove home on the 118 freeway and neared the 405 interchange in Mission Hills, they witnessed a vehicle swerve across lanes and roll over multiple times. Capt. II Fortini and Firefighter II Keeler pulled their vehicles to the shoulder and carefully approached the accident scene as passing drivers slowed and dodged to miss the debris field.

The accident involved only a single vehicle with a single occupant. The driver was alive but severely injured and was struggling to breathe. Capt. II Fortini quickly assessed the patient’s condition and began administering care. Firefighter II Keeler called 9-1-1 and relayed incident details to expedite help for the gravely injured driver.

Firefighter II Tanner Keeler

Firefighter II Keeler then retrieved a basic first-aid kit from the captain’s truck, and the two proceeded to help stabilize the driver. Capt. II Fortini reached through the broken windshield from the vehicle’s hood and used a bag valve mask to help the patient breathe. Meanwhile, Firefighter II Keeler climbed into the vehicle cab through a broken side window to help stabilize the driver’s injured neck and spine.

Despite lacking tools and adequate protective gear, Capt. II Fortini and Firefighter II Keeler remained with the patient until their on-duty colleagues arrived on the scene. Both members sustained cuts and scrapes from the broken glass and debris, causing exposure risks from blood and bodily fluids.

LAFD personnel extracted the patient and took him to a nearby hospital. Although the patient’s injuries were extensive, he survived due to Capt. II Fortini’s and Firefighter II Keeler’s courageous actions.

Letter of Special Commendation:
Firefighter Dajon Johnson
Fire Station 65

Firefighter Dajon Johnson

The gathering at Firefighter Dajon Johnson’s Long Beach apartment had begun to wind down. The Los Angeles Rams had just secured their historic Super Bowl LVI victory. Johnson and his cousin stepped outside to take out the garbage
when they encountered a couple in a heated argument.

One of the pair was Firefighter Johnson’s neighbor. As they walked past the arguing couple, Firefighter Johnson witnessed the man strike the woman repeatedly.

Firefighter Johnson intervened and shouted for the man to stop. The attacker turned his attention
to Firefighter Johnson and rushed toward him.

Firefighter Johnson defended himself and knocked the attacker to the ground multiple times. As the assailant rebounded, he drew a pistol from his waistband and pointed it directly at Firefighter Johnson’s face.

Thankfully, Firefighter Johnson’s neighbor pushed the man’s arm away just as he began firing. Firefighter Johnson was struck twice – once on his right hand and once through his right thigh.

Firefighter Johnson retreated as the gunman continued firing. He reached the ground floor of his apartment, seeking aid and cover.

As neighbors and bystanders fled, a couple that had been walking their dog past the building stopped to help. Firefighter Johnson fashioned a tourniquet with the man’s belt as the couple dialed 9-1-1. Local police arrived soon after to secure the scene, and Firefighter Johnson was taken quickly to a nearby hospital.

After nearly six months of intense physical therapy, Firefighter Johnson has fully recovered. While rehabilitating his leg, Firefighter Johnson enrolled in paramedic school. He is expected to graduate
this spring and cannot wait to return to duty.

Division of the Year:
LAFD Cadet Program

The Los Angeles Fire Department’s Cadet Program offers teens and young adults a pathway toward a rewarding career as a firefighter. Rooted in the history and tradition of the Explorer Program from the 1980s and 1990s, this vital community program helps participants develop confidence, teamwork, leadership and life skills to succeed in their future career endeavors. The program also serves as a recruiting pipeline by cultivating future generations of LAFD firefighters.

The Cadet Program teaches basic technical competencies in firefighting through hands-on lessons, classroom instruction, and incident ride-alongs. Cadets train alongside firefighters and assist with certain station activities and responsibilities on a weekly or bi-monthly basis.

Currently, 12 Fire Stations across Los Angeles serve as Cadet Posts. The firefighters leading these posts voluntarily commit their time as Cadet Post

Advisers, serving as teachers and mentors to the program participants. Beyond the technical program curriculum, these dedicated advisors work to instill pride, passion and a strong spirit of community service in their cadets.

Program graduates often cite their cadet experience as the catalyst for their desire to join the LAFD or
to pursue a career in public safety. In the last four years, more than 40 LAFD Drill Tower graduates participated in the Cadet program.

“This program is so much more than an extracurricular activity,” said Patricia Arias, Director of the LAFD’s Youth Programs. “For many cadets, this is a life-changing experience. These young people are building life-long relationships, gaining invaluable skills and discovering that they can succeed in careers that make a difference for others. The Cadet Program produces results, one homegrown hero at a time.”

Community Impact Award:
Whittier Trust

Since 1935, Whittier Trust has delivered exceptional wealth management and financial services, guiding families through multiple generations, and protecting and enriching family legacies through diligence and integrity.

For more than 13 years, Julie Lytle Nesbit served as Whittier’s Executive Vice President and Executive Director of Philanthropic Services. During that time, she was instrumental in channeling major gifts
to the LAFD Foundation to support the needs of its mission. “I am humbled and proud to be receiving the [LAFD] Community Impact Award, but the true honor is mine in knowing that we played a part in keeping our firefighters safe, supported, and well-equipped,” she said.

Under Julie’s watch over the past 10 years, Whittier Trust administered more than $1.2 million in grants to the LAFD Foundation. With this they helped bolster the LAFD’s wildfire preparedness and resiliency capabilities, obtain a state-of-the-art firefighting robot, purchase life-saving medical devices, fund COVID testing and vaccinations sites in underserved communities, and was instrumental in helping fund a new light-duty helicopter.

Corporate Impact Award:
Banc of California

For over 80 years, Banc of California has served small and medium-sized businesses and their principals throughout the Golden State. It is one of the largest banks headquartered in California, with extensive experience in the manufacturing, healthcare, commercial real estate, entertainment, and nonprofit sectors.

Banc of California firmly believes that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is fundamental to its long-term success and sustainability, proudly investing, lending, and volunteering in the communities it serves. By partnering with proven leaders and local causes, Banc of California helps to build stronger communities through affordable housing and homeownership, financing small businesses, and financial literacy education.

“We take great pride in supporting organizations and activities that enhance the quality of life in the communities where our clients and employees work, live and do business,” shared Jay Sanders, President of Specialty Banking, Deposits and Treasury Management at Banc of California, and Program Chair of the LAFD Foundation Board of Directors.

Since joining the LAFD Foundation Board in 2017, Sanders has been instrumental in the Foundation’s year-over-year growth. His leadership has helped guide financial and programmatic decisions, particularly the expanded impact of the Foundation’s Adopt-a-Fire Station (AAFS) Program.

Banc of California has helped fulfill dozens of repairs, equipment upgrades and appliance replacements at fire stations across Los Angeles. The bank’s generous matching grants have helped address unmet needs and improve living and working conditions at fire stations in underserved communities.

Medal of Valor

The Medal of Valor is awarded to sworn personnel who have demonstrated bravery at great risk to their own lives, beyond a doubt and clearly above the call of duty, whether on or off-duty.

Medal of Merit

The Medal of Merit is awarded to sworn personnel who distinguish themselves by performing an act where the individual’s actions, if not taken, would have resulted in serious injury or present imminent danger to life. The individual must have demonstrated a conspicuous act of bravery with calculated personal risk to his or her own life.

Letter of Special Commendation

A Letter of Special Commendation is awarded to department members who perform an act requiring initiative and/or ability worthy of recognition during emergency or non-emergency conditions.

Corporate Impact Award

The Corporate Impact Award is presented to a company that exhibits philanthropic excellence in the community, outstanding corporate citizenship, and longstanding support of the Department and its personnel.

Community Impact Award

The Community Impact Award is presented to an organization that provides invaluable service to the community and outstanding support for the people of Los Angeles.

Station/Division of the Year Award

The Station/Division of the Year Award is presented to the men and women assigned to one specific station or division, who collectively exhibit exemplary service, professionalism, bravery and compassion.