Accomplished Firefighter Wins Top Honor
By Donna Furey, Special to the Independent
Laguna Beach’s firefighter of the year David Lopez is a man who welcomes a challenge.
After graduating from Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, where he studied to become an emergency medical technician, Lopez served as a volunteer firefighter while working fulltime with a Palm Springs ambulance company. He continued his schooling to become a paramedic and then a firefighter.
He is quick to credit his wife for her support during that chaotic time. Lopez, 32, who lives in Beaumont, was elated when he secured the position of firefighter/paramedic with the Laguna Beach department in 2010.
Lopez is up for accolades at the nomination of his peers and with the approval of the department’s top brass. As close to 80 percent of the department’s calls respond to routine medical emergencies, Lopez’s paramedic training and commitment to ensuring that the department delivers top medical care stand out.
He has prepared lesson plans and taught technical classes on emergency medicine for every shift of the department’s firefighters and played a role in integrating a new electronic patient care report, which enables firefighters to send information from the scene ahead to emergency rooms about the condition of an injured person soon to be en route.
In addition to his on-duty activities, Lopez’s personal time is also partly tied to the fire service. He’s taken up playing bagpipes, a long-standing tradition among firefighters that stems from an influx of Irish immigrants to the United States in the 1800s. Firefighting was a particularly dangerous job at the time, often filled by Irish immigrants whose funeral tradition included bagpipes. Soon non-Irish police and firefighters were requesting bagpipes at their funerals as well.
Not long after beginning work in Laguna, Lopez spotted a flyer in the station about recruits needed for a bagpipe band in Huntington Beach. He started by learning fingering techniques on an instrument known as a “practice chanter,” a flute like instrument that beginners use as an introduction to the pipes. When Lopez moved on to a teacher, he was surprised by an 18-year-old mentor, Cameron Gair, a top-rated piper.
“When you finally get to hold the bagpipes, it’s like starting over,” recalled Lopez. “It’s a very challenging instrument.” Lopez’s practice time quadrupled, and within three months he’d achieved a level of proficiency that would take a less dedicated student a year to attain.
Now as a member of the 24-strong Orange County Fire Authority Pipes and Drums, whose motto is “Honoring the Fallen-Continuing the Tradition,” Lopez has traveled all over the Southwest on his own time playing at memorials, funeral services and ceremonies honoring firefighters and police officers, including three memorials involving sworn Laguna Beach employees. In May, the OCFA Pipes and Drums will journey to Washington, D.C., as part of the 19th Annual Emerald Society and Pipe and Drum March during National Police Week.
Despite his long commute, Lopez says working in Laguna Beach is a treat and “the staff is a bonus.” “I love being a firefighter and I love being a paramedic; I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
Transit Coordinator Takes the Wheel for New Responsibilities
Laguna Beach resident Anne Belyea, who works part-time as the city’s transit coordinator, took on expanded responsibilities beginning Jan. 24 by working to implement parking management recommendations approved by the City Council last week.
Belyea previously worked as the executive director of a Santa Ana transportation management association. She will draw on that experience in evaluating and implementing new parking programs and linking them to public transit services in Laguna.
Dual Talents Pay Off
Laguna Beach resident Karen Testman was recently promoted chief financial officer of Memorial Care Health System, which operates six hospitals in Southern California, including Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente.
Testmen, who joined the company in 1998, previously worked as a nurse. Testman, a 26-year local, received both her degree in nursing and bachelor’s degree in business administration from Loma Linda University.
Foundation Welcomes New Board Members
The Laguna Beach Community Foundation appointed Thomas P. Davis and Jerry Bieser to its board.
Davis, a resident since 1976, is founder and principal of Davis Law and a deep history in local charitable efforts.
Bieser, sales vice president for Chicago Title Company in Laguna, has served on Laguna’s Board of Realtors since 1981 and spearheaded several local charitable efforts. “I’ve always felt that ‘the more you give, the more you get’ so it is my great privilege to serve as a trustee of the Community Foundation and one that I’m certain will be very rewarding…” Bieser said in a statement.
New Line up For Visit Laguna Beach
Visit Laguna Beach announced its 2014 board, which includes some new members.
Besides its longtime chair, Karyn Philippsen, the board also includes Peggy Trott, of Inn at Laguna Beach; Bill Tremper, of the Pacific Edge Hotel; and Heinz Hofmann, at Hotel Laguna.
At large members include hospitality leaders Kurt Bjorkman, of Aliso Creek Inn; Joanna Bear, Surf and Sand Resort & Spa; Christopher Keller, of Casa Resorts, Inc.; Bob Mitchell, of Montage Laguna Beach; and Mark Orgill of Sunset Cove Villas and Seven Degrees.