Relieving the badge

Jackson Bell

One of Burbank Firefighter Greg Ward’s most memorable experiences

didn’t happen on the job. It was the few minutes he hang-glided

within arm’s reach of an eagle.


“We just watched each other,” Ward recalled. “He looked at me, and

I looked at him as we turned and banked in the same thermals.”

Burgess, a hang glider for the past 30 years, likes to escape the

stress of his job by soaring through the air at Azusa Canyon at least


once a month.

“You get everything from peace and solitude to a heck of a lot of

excitement, so it runs the gamut and helps me unwind,” he said. “It’s

calming and pulls me away from my thoughts if I had a bad shift.”

Burbank Police officers and firefighters have many different ways

of relaxing to relieve the pressures of their occupation, whether

hang gliding, skydiving, operating remote-controlled model planes or

watching waves at the beach.


Burbank Police Sgt. Craig Ratliff, who jumped out of a plane for

the first time on his 40th birthday, describes skydiving as a

peaceful and restful sport where he can watch the landscape quietly

gain on him while falling.

“I never think of my days as stressful, I just come in and do my

job,” said Ratliff, a skydiver for 13 years. “But there are times

when I need to get my knees in the breeze.”

A certified skydiving instructor who shoots photos and videos of


the sport while airborne, Ratliff said he has taken about 25 other

police officers for jumps in the past. He even proposed to his wife,

Kathy, while they were both plummeting toward Earth.

Burbank Fire engineer Pat Burgess’ favorite way to let loose is by

operating his radio-controlled model airplanes, helicopters and

gliders -- motorless model airplanes that are propelled by the wind.

He flies them at Temple Hill in Pomona, the cliffs of Huntington

Beach and at the Santa Fe Dam R/C Modelers’ runway in Duarte.

Burgess, who flies his aircrafts about three times a week, said he

likes the camaraderie of interacting with fellow modelers, but mostly

enjoys forgetting about his concerns.

“I don’t want to take my problems home because I don’t want to bum

[my family and friends] out, so I go out and relax and fly,” he said.