About three years ago, Aileen Bristow began working to open the Fire House youth center in La Crescenta. For 10 years, it had been a dream of hers and those who knew her son Christopher McCulloch. They wanted a place where kids could go, meet their friends and just hang out.
In honor of her son, the “big” room at the Fire House, located at 2563 Foothill Blvd. in La Crescenta, will be dedicated as “Christopher’s Room” on Monday, July 23 at 6 p.m.
On July 23, 2000 Christopher, 13, and his friend Blain Talmo, 14, were found brutally murdered on the campus of Valley View Elementary School. Michael Demirdjian, who was 15 years old in 2000, was convicted of the murders. Demirdjian’s motive was robbery to help pay for a previous drug deal gone bad.
The two boys had left their homes on the Friday before their murders and didn’t return. When Aileen did not hear from her son by Friday night she began to worry but thought certain he would call her. It was a long night of contacting his friends and waiting. When she hadn’t heard from him Saturday morning, she contacted friends who told her he spent the night with Blaine. With the help of her friends, they began going to all the places the boys may have been hanging out. The search continued until early Monday morning, about 1 a.m., when Glendale Police officers came to her door with the news of her son’s murder.
The past 12 years have been difficult for Aileen and her younger son, John. The pain of the loss has been a bit eased with their work with the Fire House.
“The Fire House and what it represents, a safe place for young people to hang out together, eat and enjoy the facilities offered or just sit and relax, is something every community requires to help keep our young people safe during the teenage years. The Crescenta Valley is very fortunate that one person in particular saw the need and with the help of others did something about it. My gratitude goes out to Mary O’Keefe and Father Bryan Jones of St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church and the volunteers who turn up on Tuesday and Friday nights and Thursday mornings to make sure this facility remains open … and to the organizations and members of the community that generously provide food on a regular basis. This safe haven is long overdue but with the community’s help will remain for a very long time to come,” said Aileen Bristow.
The Fire House is located on the grounds of St. Luke’s. A youth committee that grew out of the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition formed the Fire House. The Coalition asked one of its members to gather teens in the area to talk about issues they faced. The youth committee that was formed wanted to have a place where kids could go, meet with friends and hang out. St. Luke’s of the Mountains and Rev. Jones partnered with the committee, offering the little stone building on its property for the center. In the 1920s and ‘30s the building housed Los Angeles County Fire Station 19.
Local teens, parents and community members, led by kids from the Prom Plus Club, grabbed paintbrushes and brooms and began to transform the building into the Fire House.
The non-religious youth center is open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and during the school year on Thursdays from 7:15 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. to accommodate Rosemont Middle School’s late start days.
The Fire House is supported through donations from local organizations and through volunteers that staff the center. The Fire House activities are determined by the Fire House Action Group comprised of teen leaders.