Service Above Self

Edward E. Luttig

Edward E. Luttig was a firefighter for only three years before he suffered severe brain damage in the line of duty, but his short career changed the face of firefighting forever. He died September 10, 1990, at age 54 in a Sacramento convalescent home after living 23 years in a semiconscious state. He is gone, but not forgotten. Long after the benefit dances stopped and the legal battles ended to provide financial and medical help for Ed and his family , after the accident on June 2, 1967, the fallen city firefighter is credited by his colleagues with saving many lives.
Shortly after the accident, in which Luttig was overcome by smoke because of a faulty breathing apparatus, the City Fire Department began using a more modern and reliable mask. Ed Luttig's name is now associated nationwide with self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighters. Luttig's tragic accident rallied the firefighters, who donated their time and money to support him and his family during the 23-year ordeal. At one time shortly after the accident, nearly 100 firefighters donated two hours a day to manually exercise Ed's limbs in a treatment known as "patterning". Its purpose is to retrain the undamaged part of the brain through repetitious movement of the body. Luttig was just 31 years old and the father of a young son when he was overcome by smoke while searching for survivors in an apartment fire on Donner Way. Tenant Ellen Dunn died in the fire. Ed was found unconscious on a second floor of the apartment house, pulled from the fire by a fellow firefighter, and revived at the scene. But he never recovered enough to feed himself or even speak again. His injury prompted an out-of-court settlement from Mine Safety Appliance Company, manufacturer of the mask. During the four years it took for the case to be hammered out, Ed's friends paid for much of his care and the care of his family. Firefighters from the city and county contributed thousands of dollars through automatic donations from their paychecks. They held benefit dances, social events and fund raisers. As firefighters, we all know that our profession is a hazardous one and we accept that fact, but we still hurt deeply when one of our own is injured or taken from us. We will miss Ed, but will be forever reminded of his supreme sacrifice by the fact that he helped to make our job a safer one.