In the midst of a scorching heat wave that produced record high temperatures, firefighters in the San Fernando Valley battled several fires over the past weekend in Chatsworth, Lake View Terrace and Sylmar that damaged the patio of a house, injured two goats, and caused panic among the residents.
The firefighting season is just beginning. So it’s a good time to get added firefighting power.
And that’s exactly what happened in two areas of the Valley, as stations in Mission Hills and Reseda each received new fire engines.
Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Chief Ralph Terrazas was in Mission Hills with LA City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez to welcome a new engine at Fire Station 75, restoring engine services to an area that had been operating under a reduced capacity since 2011 due to budget cuts.
The new fire engine comes with an additional captain and engineer operator.
“This is a tremendous win for our fire-prone hillsides and neighborhoods,” Rodriguez said. “Our community has gone far too long without adequate services, and it is crucial that we restore resources to protect our neighborhoods from fire-related hazards.”
The daughter of a firefighter who had worked at Station 75, Rodriguez added that “Given the tragic fires that we currently have and experienced in the fall of last year, there is no greater demonstration of the need that we have to make sure that our fire personnel are hitting the mark here in the San Fernando Valley because we have incredible demand.”
The funding to restore resources to Station 75 came from a Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response (SAFER) grant that was awarded to the city by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Thanks to the SAFER grant, we were able to bring back Engine 75 to Mission Hills,” Terrazas said. “The new Engine 75 will provide additional fire and EMS services to the residents and visitors of this community, as we continually strive to provide exceptional public safety across the City of Los Angeles.”
The SAFER Grant Program was created to fund fire departments directly, helping them increase or maintain the number of trained “front line” firefighters available in their communities.
The grant paid for the restoration of fire engines at three other LAFD stations in Echo Park, Lincoln Heights and Fire Station 73 in Reseda. All of them had been eliminated due to budget cuts in the middle of the last recession.
Each engine costs $820,000 without the equipment and staffing.
“It’s worth it to provide for the safety and protection of people of this city,” Terrazas said.
Station 73 is located at 7419 Reseda Boulevard in Reseda.
“After I joined the city council, I promised to restore a full company here and am thrilled that after years of hard work, budget advocacy and exploring funding opportunities with LAFD and United Firefighters of Los Angeles, IAFF Local-112’s Frankie Lima, the station will be back to full capacity,” Councilmember Bob Blumenfield said at the July 9 celebration and open house.
The new engines and increased staffing come after Los Angeles officials applied for and received a $15 million FEMA grant. The city is also contributing $10 million from its general fund.
The grant also allows LAFD to hire an additional 48 firefighters for the four new engines, which would mean one four-person crew for each engine per shift.
The LAFD was awarded $7 million more than any other fire department across the country.
Increased Service for Sylmar
Captain Mark Schroeder of Fire Station 75, located at 15345 San Fernando Mission in Mission Hills, said that for the past seven years they have operated with a big ladder apparatus and an engine. But both were usually deployed to the same calls because the ladder apparatus “is like a big tool chest, but it doesn’t carry any water.”
“Having these resources back on the streets enhances our emergency services and also gives us the ability to complete our mission, to preserve life and property,” Schroeder said. “Not only does (the new fire engine) provide for firefighter safety on our various incidents, but it provides increased safety for the citizens in the city.”
Meaning each engine can now go to different calls and respond much quicker to wherever they are needed.
That’s important because — apart from handling Mission Hills and part of Granada Hills — Station 75 also helps protect the City of San Fernando and Sylmar.
Sylmar is actually the largest service area in Los Angeles. But it only has one station — Fire Station 91, located at 14430 Polk Street
“Sylmar is as big as Burbank, which has six stations,” Schroeder said.
The station in Sylmar also responds to accidents along the 14 Freeway into Santa Clarita, through a contract with Los Angeles county. Even if they don’t end up taking care of the incident, going to and returning from such calls could take between 30-40 minutes.
Because of the large coverage area and its other responsibilities, Station 91 in Sylmar could only respond to 40 percent of its own calls.
But Rodriguez has also allocated $200,000 to begin a study and the process to build an additional fire station in Sylmar, to better equip the Northeast San Fernando Valley with emergency resources.
“I concur with that effort. There is a plan to get that on the ballot soon. We’re counting on that and the support of the people to build another fire station, which we desperately need,” Terrazas said.