LOS ANGELES – Never far from the busy engines of Los Angeles’s Fire Station 9 on Skid Row is a man known by everyone in the area as 'Mango.'
Even though he can often be found wearing an LAFD cap and jacket designating him as the “Fire Traffic Officer,” he is not an official member of L.A. City Fire. But when the calls fire off at Station 9, Mango springs into action, just like the crews.
“This is the number one busiest fire station in the nation," said Mango. "My job is helping my guys here.”
The biggest way he knows how to help is clearing a safe path for the fire engines and ambulances to get where they need to go.
“What I do is I stop the traffic, so they can have enough time to get off the truck, secure themselves," Mango said.
Whether it’s late at night or early in the day, Mango is there to offer a hand or sometimes even a hug to the crews.
“They’re pumping always. I’m like the sixth man on the basketball team you know," Mango said.
Mango is able to get to the firefighters to help so quickly because he lives right across from the station on Skid Row. But he would prefer you didn’t call him homeless.
“I’m houseless. I am my home, my home is here," Mango said, pointing to his heart.
Mango shared that he came to Skid Row in 2016 from Florida where he owned a car detailing business. Why Skid Row? He says he was drawn here to be of service.
“I just wanted to give a hand. As a spiritual person, I believe I’m led here to make a difference," Mango said.
To the crews at LAFD's Station 9, where the calls seemingly never stop, Mango has made a huge difference. Many of the members said he brings a much-needed dose of joy and positivity whenever he is around.
“He’s super protective of us. He tries to figure out the call and he’s kind of like the middle man here for people in skid row," said Alex Anthony, a firefighter with Station 9.
The admiration is mutual.
“I didn’t know firefighting was like this. ‘Tis is the navy seals of firefighting," said Mango. "It overwhelms me to help these guys, it’s amazing.”
All firefighters - and fire traffic officers - are heroes. And around here, the sweetest one you will find is Mango.