Culver City Fire Captain Commended for Compassionate Response

Published on March 21, 2024

Photo of Fire Captain Derek Still

A Culver City Fire Department Captain was commended for his exceptional dedication and service beyond the call of duty. In early 2024, Captain Derek Still responded to a call at the home of an elderly woman who had fallen and required assistance. Upon arrival, they discovered the woman, along with three small dogs, in a home in less-than-ideal conditions.

“Walking into that house, it hit me automatically that this is a person who needs a little bit more help,” Still said. Captain Still has been with the Culver City Fire Department for 15 years.

What followed was a meticulously planned effort aimed at not only improving the woman's living conditions but also ensuring the well-being of her pets and establishing ongoing support through a social worker. Still reached out to the woman's family and a local social group for assistance, but he felt compelled to do more. He proposed returning with several colleagues to clean her home, an idea approved by Battalion Chief Robert Kohlhepp.

The ensuing cleanup efforts were a collaborative endeavor, with firefighters coordinating tasks such as contacting a veterinarian and arranging for a dumpster.

“Everyone just took a little part,” Still said.

Their efforts proved timely when, upon arrival for the cleanup, they discovered the woman required immediate medical attention. “After we transported her, we stayed in contact with her son, and he allowed us to come back and we just started cleaning.”

“I think the universe was working for everyone involved,” Still said. “It was apparent she was having difficulty medically, but she valued her independence even though she knows she needs help.”

The cleaning efforts took a little over three hours, Still said. “It was very rewarding in the sense of knowing this is why we’re here. We’re here to help people. We’re here to do good for people. We’re here to not turn a blind eye to someone who needs help.”

Still says he is deeply proud of his fellow firefighters who assisted in the efforts that day. “We all banded together, we had a goal in mind, and we accomplished that and then some,” he said. Still shared his gratitude of the City’s Public Works and a local veterinarian who helped provide services on short notice.

“At the same time, it makes me feel good, but there’s another piece of that this is what we should be doing. We’re all doing what we should be doing.”

Still was reluctant to receive recognition for the accomplishment, reiterating it is his job to care about people and their unique situations. “If anything, it’s for people to see you can do this too. Whether it’s small scale or large scale, it can be done.”

In the commendation request letter, Battalion Chief Kohlhepp praised the actions of Still and his fellow firefighters.

“In the face of a challenging situation involving a patient unable to care for herself at home, Captain Still and his team demonstrated unwavering professionalism and compassion. Their meticulous planning and coordination not only ensured the patient's immediate needs were met but also extended to addressing her pets' welfare and ensuring her living space was conducive to her well-being,” Kohlhepp wrote.

“Their actions were guided by a deep respect for the dignity and autonomy of the individual they were assisting. By engaging with the patient's family members and collaborating with a social worker, they demonstrated a profound understanding of the importance of fostering trust and building collaborative relationships within the community. Furthermore, their humility was evident in their willingness to go above and beyond their duties to ensure the patient received the care and support she needed. Their commitment to acting selflessly for the benefit of others, as reflected in our motto, was truly commendable.”

Engineer Dan Stayne, Firefighter Gretchen Maurer, Captain Bryan Sua, Engineer Bobby Kosch, Firefighters Doug Furano, Alberth Revelo and Daniel Nembhard were all recognized in the letter for their efforts.


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