The meeting of the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Committee on Monday night was chock-full of community information. Reporter Dan Stork broke his report into two parts. Today: a report on fire staffing levels…
Dave Benfield, the San Bernardino County Fire Division Chief for Zone 5, which includes the Morongo Basin, told the audience at the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council the four county fire stations fields about 7,000 calls for service per year. The great bulk of these are for medical help. He said that the staffing model for the area will change in September, so that each of stations in Yucca Valley, Yucca Mesa-Aberdeen, and Joshua Tree will have one paramedic engine with three personnel and one paramedic ambulance with two personnel, and Wonder Valley will have one paramedic brush patrol with two personnel. The total of 17 personnel on duty at all times represents a gain of two over current staffing. Benfield said that the Morongo Basin, with its huge size, is resource-thin compared to many urban areas, leading to complications in dispatching paramedics and firefighters. Benfield’s presentation was broken up by lively Q&A from the interested audience, touching upon the cost and funding of fire protection, use of volunteers, helicopters, tall buildings, and more. See this story at for some of the information imparted.
· There is at least one paramedic on every fire engine.
· The rule that two firefighters must be available outside a structure fire in order for two others to go inside is waived when there are rescues to be made.
· It costs about $1.5 million per year to support a fire station with full-time coverage with a 3-person paramedic engine crew and a 2-person ambulance crew.
· Volunteer firefighter organizations are relatively rare in the western United States; they are largely an eastern phenomenon.
· Funding of fire services lags behind the economic cycle, because it depends largely on property tax collections rather than, say, sales taxes.
· County fire shares one helicopter with the Sheriff’s Department, which is largely devoted to wildland fire service, and is unlikely to be used in residential areas.
· A new ladder truck will come into service locally, in time for protection of the 3-story public housing project in Yucca Valley.
· In the recent fire on I-15, inadequate fire safety procedures were in place.
· Any structure fire that would draw 10-15 firefighting personnel would strain the ability of emergency services in the Morongo Basin to respond to concurrent incidents.

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