October 25, 2012
LAWT Wire Service
Memorial services will be held on Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 1 p.m. for Los Angeles City Fire Department’s first African-American assistant fire chief Paul Orduna, who passed earlier this month on Oct. 5at the age of 85. The services will take place at the African-American Firefighter’s Museum located at 1401 Central Avenue in Los Angeles. For more information, please call (323) 243-3372.
Paul Orduna served in the US Air Force for two years where he received specialized training as a diesel mechanic. He was stationed in the Philippines for 9 months and received an Honorable Discharge from the Air Force in 1946.
In 1952, Mr. Orduna joined the Omaha Fire Department in Nebraska where he remained for four years. He was offered a position as a firefighter with the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1957.
Paul Orduna’s career as a firefighter in the racially tense 50’s and 60’s was punctuated with many hardships and indignities--yet, his drive and commitment to succeed never wavered.
In a 1991 Los Angeles Times article, Orduna said, “Every day I would go to work, and nobody would talk to me — except the captain to give me orders. If I walked in a room, (other firefighters) would walk out.”
“Right from the first day they took me in the office and told me, 'Bring your own pots and pans. You have to cook your own food and eat after every one else has eaten.'”
In 1974, he was promoted to Captain I and supervised some of the busiest fire companies in the city. He was also recruited as an instructor at the department’s Recruit Training Academy. In 1978, Mr. Orduna was promoted to the position of Captain II and was transferred to the Community Liaison Office, thereby becoming the department’s Affirmative Action Officer and Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator.
In June of 1980, Paul Orduna was promoted to the rank of Battalion Chief. This was a major accomplishment because he was only the second Black Battalion Chief in the history of the Los Angeles Fire Department. With the goal of becoming Assistant Fire Chief, Paul returned to school and obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Management from the University of Redlands. In February 1986, he became the first Black Assistant Fire Chief in the history of the Los Angeles Fire Department. He was eventually given an emergency appointment to the position of Deputy Chief where he was in command of the Bureau of Support Services.
Paul retired from the department January 26, 1991 after 33 years of service.
Paul Orduna is survived by his daughter Gloria O’Quinn, two grandsons Michael Holmes and Charles O’Quinn IV, sister Amelia Donaldson, sisters-in-law Doris Orduna, Florence Hickerson, and Caledonia Orduna, as well as a host of relatives and friends.