Fire Station 69 Captain II Tommy Kitahata, who was named 2020 Firefighter of the Year, received a special surprise on February 25.
The chefs on “Bake Squad,” an American Netflix Original series, presented him with a three-foot Dalmatian cake, complete with a hat for the dog and a fire hydrant filled with fruit skewers.
LAFD spokesperson Erik Scott said he had been contacted by the show and was asked if they had a firefighter who went above and beyond.
“I instantly thought of Captain Kit,” Scott said.
Kitahata joined the LAFD in 1988 as a firefighter and has worked in Hollywood, Echo Park/Rampart, South Central, Westlake, Van Nuys, East L.A. and Downtown L.A.
He worked his way up from apparatus operator to Captain I to Captain II. He also gained certification for the Urban Search and Rescue, California Task Force One and has been deployed to numerous disasters across the country during his career, including New York City for 9/11 as part of the massive FEMA response.
In 2018, Kitahata was deployed along with 80 L.A. firefighters and civilians to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston and Hurricane Irma in Florida.
Kitahata has worked as a teacher with the LAFD’s In-Service Training section and as a Drill Master in Recruit Training. He continues to serve as an instructor and subject-matter expert across both search-and-rescue and firefighter skills.
When the Covid pandemic hit Los Angeles, Kitahata led the department with testing and vaccination through the Logistics Unit.
At the October ceremony that honored him with the Firefighter of the Year award, speaker after speaker said, “We love this man. We respect and admire him.”
Scott told Circling the News on Friday that a luncheon was held because many of the people who had wanted to be with Kitahata for the ceremony were working at the Covid site.
To cap the luncheon, the “Bake Squad” dessert was unveiled.
The series, which first aired last August, features Christina Tosi and four bakers, Ashley Holt (cake decorator), Christophe Rull (pastry chef), Maya-Camille Broussard (pastry chef) and Gonzo Jimenez (chocolatier) who create a special dessert.
Scott said that the chefs asked him about the Captain’s preferences and he told them that Kitahata didn’t like anything overly sweet.
“They came up with four amazing desserts,” Scott said. “The hardest thing to do was to choose one.”
The final product was absolutely stunning: a life-sized Dalmatian cake. Scott explained that the chefs had heard that there had been a dog (the beloved Buddy) who had lived at Station 69. The dog cake had a firefighter’s helmet and its own chocolate fire hydrant, and of course was delicious. The hydrant cap was similar to a Reese’s cup. Inside the hydrant were unique fruit skewers including roasted grapes.
Kitahata was the first to try the skewers and laughed as his daughter cut the cake with a firefighter’s axe. The full episode will air this year.