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Greatest Person: Rescue Chief Recognized for Heroic Work

Meet the La Crescenta man behind many rescues in Angeles National Forest, who was honored with two gold medals of valor by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

If you injure yourself during a or are , chances are one man will rescue you–and he also happens to be a La Crescenta dad.

Sheriff’s officials honored Reserve Chief Mike Leum with two gold medals of valor for his heroic service during the and for saving a man he saw attempting to kill himself on the Foothill (210) Freeway: Leum darted into oncoming traffic to save him.

The honoree has three different titles: Reserve Chief of Search and Rescue for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, first responder for the Montrose Search and Rescue Team and civilian executive with the .

“It’s all sheriff’s, all the time at our house,” Leum said.

Leum is a longtime La Crescenta resident. He and his wife both attended Hoover High School in Glendale and have two sons, one a student and the other studying at Glendale Community College.

Each week Leum hears his pager go off and responds with the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s to perform search and rescue missions in the Angeles National Forest.

On Tuesday he was awarded twice.

Leum responds to about 80 rescue or emergency calls each year, but was recognized with other rescue workers for braving life-threatening conditions during the Station Fire in August 2009, the largest blaze in Los Angeles County, which killed two firefighters.

Leum, accompanied by other Montrose and Antelope Valley Search and Rescue Teams, went to find a safe escape on the fifth day of the fire at Fire Camp 16, which housed about 55 inmate workers and fire camp employees.

Rescuers knew that two firefighters were presumed dead after their vehicle went off a steep embankment and that 55 inmate workers were either seriously injured or dead from the flames. Helicopters attempted to land, but no one could reach the trapped people.

Leum and his team went past roaring flames and landslides, searching for a way to the camp, bringing survivors to safety and transporting the two firefighters who died, according to Capt. Mike Parker of the Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau. Each team member had the chance to opt out of the rescue mission, but none of them took it.

His second recognition stemmed from an off-duty rescue in May 2010, when Leum and his family were driving on the Foothill (210) Freeway. His wife saw a man covered in blood, running in traffic lanes. The man was a previous patient at Olive View Hospital and had attempted to kill himself by cutting his own neck several times.

Leum pulled his car over and ran into oncoming traffic, pulling the man toward the road shoulder without being struck himself. His wife called 911, and Leum saw that the man was agitated and armed with a knife. Leum started talking, disarmed the man and continued holding him back from running into traffic.

“It’s always nice to be recognized, but the bottom line it’s just stuff we do or stuff we should do,” Leum said. “[Rescue missions are] something I hope someone would do for me. It’s kind of one of those things where if we don’t do it, who’s going to?”

Kevin September 10, 2011 at 02:44 AM
Let's set the records straight regarding that horrific night at Camp 16. Montrose Search and Rescue arrived at Camp 16, five hours after Captain Ted Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnie Quinones perished. After arriving, they assisted with the body recoveries. With all due respect, the work they did was appreciated. But in no way did they bring anyone to safety. They also did not transport the two firefighters who died (Ted and Arnie) as the article states. Their bodies were transported in Los Angeles County Fire Department Crew Carrier Vehicles driven by the friends and co-workers of Ted and Arnie. Once again, we appreciated all of the support that we had up there that terrible night, but to conjure up a false story is an insult to Ted and Arnie and to everyone who was actually up there when this trajedy took place.
Nicole Charky (Editor) September 10, 2011 at 06:46 PM
Kevin, thank you for commenting. The information from this article was provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: https://local.nixle.com/alert/4728833/?sub_id=609877.

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