By Ron Corbin, Retired LAPD

Like cops, firefighters apparently get bored, too. Sometimes, boredom turns into pranks. There once was an LA City fire station in South LA manned by firefighters who liked to “bomb” police officers who were making traffic stops nearby.

LAPD Air ship

It all started one day when some officers reported that they were being pelted by water balloons from an unknown source. Hearing this on the police radio, and it being an unusual call, Air-3, a police helicopter crew, flew to the scene hoping to assist in spotting the origin of the “aerial attack.” The air crew knew that there had been prior reports of this strange occurrence from previous roll call briefings.

Arriving overhead, the only uncommon activity the ‘copter crew observed was some firefighters standing on top of their fire house and waving with big, sheepish grins on their faces. Thinking that it was unusual for the firefighters to be up on their roof, it could only be imagined that these were the culprits. Other than that, the source of the water balloons could not be found. The air crew decided to fly away but radioed to another ground unit to park nearby and watch for any suspicious activity that might be coming from the fire station roof.

It wasn’t but a few minutes later that water balloons were observed being catapulted over the parapet of the fire house roof. Again Air-3 flew back over the scene and once again saw that the firefighters were standing and waving innocently. They didn’t know that they had been caught in the act.

Apparently, the firefighters had rigged-up some surgical tubing and made a huge sling-shot. For self-amusement, they would assemble water balloons and take them to the roof. There they would watch for police cars to stop within a block or two of the station. At that time, and hidden from view, they would commence their airborne assault. Now discovered by Air-3, the “air war” was on. It would be time for “payback,” LAPD vs. LAFD.

A few weeks later, it snowed on some of the higher mountains surrounding Los Angeles. The Air-3 crew decided it was time for payback. Sneaking a small, Styrofoam picnic cooler onboard, the crew of Air-3 flew up to the hills in the northwest part of Devonshire Division; landing on the helipad of an abandoned Nike missile site where it had snowed. The observer exited the ‘copter and quickly packed several snowballs, placing them in the cooler. Then Air-3 flew down to the fire station hoping that the “fire perps” would be outside. And, as luck would have it, they were; washing and polishing their beloved fire truck.

As Air-3 circled overhead, the pilot and observer waved, only this time, they were the ones with sheepish grins. When the firefighters went back to their task of cleaning, several snowballs came out of the sky, sending the firefighters scurrying for cover. As some snowballs pummeled the fire truck, a few of the firefighters waved back, only this time with one finger. The pilot came on the PA and yelled down, “For the Water Balloons…SNOW HAPPENS!”

A few days later, a photograph was received in the mail at Air Support’s heliport marked with “Attention to Air-3.” In it was a single picture without words. It depicted an LA City fire helicopter dropping its load of water … all 360 gallons. Thus, an undeclared truce was immediately put into effect.

“This is what I call a target rich environment.”