By Jim Etter
Bill Jensen was a typical local high school graduate back in 1962 seeking a career. His quest to be a member of society delivered him to the doorstep of the Glendale Fire Department in 1969. The exciting career opportunity landed him a position where he enjoyed teaching other young firefighters his craft.
Everything changed for Bill and his family on Oct. 22, when he was working the Glendale Fire Department “Strike Team” 1202A with engine #24, on the Malibu Fire. As one who trained others on the precautions and dangers of fighting fires, Bill understood the risks of this “Civil Service” job, however, being of such service was his passion.
Willingly Bill stood against a firewall of flames waiting for back-up in protection of a home. Suddenly the winds shifted and Bill found himself engulfed in a “Fire Storm” within a split second. The flames reached more than 200 feet over his head and the inferno blasted him to the ground and up against a retaining wall, where it threatened to take his life and did claim the home he had vowed to protect.
He believed that he was the only one around, but Bill felt someone help him to his feet. As he stood, using the retaining wall as a guide to edge himself out of the inferno, paramedic personnel grabbed him, ripped off his smoldering clothing, and doused him with cold water. He was rushed to a chopper that flew him to UCLA emergency. Later he was transferred to the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks with burns over 73% of his body. Believing that Firefighter Bill Jensen wouldn’t make it, 104 days later he was still clinging to life, bandaged from head to toe.
Burns are one of the most difficult injuries to treat. Receiving 111 pints of blood, and enough donor skin comparable to 4,000 3×3 “Post-It” notes, he was eventually nursed back to a state of recovery. In the years ahead, Bill had more than 40 surgeries to put his body back together. Still with discomfort, and a hand burned beyond repair, Bill leads an active life today championing his favorite charity, “Firefighters Quest for Burn Survivors,” stays involved with public appearances, and takes life as an extended gift after his horrific escape from the jaws of death. He enjoys camping, fishing, and family. He has two sons (Scott and Kirk) and six grandchildren.
His wife of many years, Sue has been an inspiration to his long decades of recovery. All the accolades, awards, and certificates Bill has been given over the years, he accepts on behalf of his fellow firefighters everywhere.
Jim Etter went to school with Bill Jensen at John Burroughs High in Burbank. Etter says:
“A noticed appreciation for life in general, from the timid classmate of ‘62, is exampled in his willingness to engage in public-speaking opportunities and pronounce with great emphasis a saying he may drop at the lectern when receiving the “Beyond Duty Over-the-Top Recognition at the Civil Service Luncheon.” Excluding what he put his family through, the incident was the best thing that ever happened to him in finding How Important Life Really Is.”
The Free Community Luncheon is being sponsored by Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park and Mortuary located at 10621 Victory Blvd. in North Hollywood this Thursday, Sept. 19. The BBQ Lunch will be served beginning at 11 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m. free to anyone attending. A brief ceremony will be held at 1 p.m., where other Civic Officials will be recognized as well as Bill Jensen. Bring friends and family and show Bill how we appreciate our Local Civil Services Team. Deputy Chief Tom Angel from the Burbank Police Department will be on hand to greet Bill Jensen and accept a plaque bearing recognition to all our Civil Service Employees everywhere.
Lots of parking, shaded seating for the lunch, and handicapped friendly.