Still discussing ambulance service

On Wednesday, July 13, Thom Wallace attended his first County Service Area 38 (Pine Cove) Advisory Committee meeting as a member of the committee. Wallace succeeds former member Tom McCullough. The county Board of Supervisors approved his appointment the day before, July 12.

Member Lou Padula opened discussion on how CSA 38 can have more information or involvement in the provision of ambulance service to Pine Cove residents by Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD). He urged IFPD to present ambulance and medical service issues and problems in a more transparent manner in order for Pine Cove residents to understand the service and its cost, which the current contract subsidizes.

Mountain Battalion Chief Sean Dakin and former Battalion Chief Dan Johnson. Photo: J.P. Crumrine

“We pay $93,000 to IFPD for the ambulance contract, why don’t we have representation on the board?” he asked.

Colleague Marge Muir agreed, but suggested that joint meetings between IFPD and the CSA Advisory Committee might be an improvement. She expressed frustration with getting some questions answered officially and having to request being on the IFPD agenda.

As an example, Muir pointed out that IFPD has three ambulances, but only two are usually staffed. In order to dispatch the third ambulance, IFPD has to call in reserves or paid-call firefighters. IFPD Chief Norm Walker, attending the meeting, affirmed Muir’s observation. Since becoming Idyllwild’s chief, Walker has been attending the CSA 38 meetings.

Thom Wallace. Photo: J.P. Crumrine

Walker said a new ambulance contract for the mountaintop, all areas except Idyllwild, will not be developed for several years. But the alternative of private ambulance service is unlikely to be supplied at the current Pine Cove cost.

“AMR [American Medical Response, the private ambulance service] is pure profit. They won’t put an ambulance here for two calls per day. I have four-person daily staffing and ambulance is a priority.” He also felt that IFPD was satisfying its contractual obligations to Pine Cove.

Committee members also discussed that they will sponsor an enhanced volunteer firefighter recruitment program later this year. Currently, Riverside County Fire Department is completing the transition from volunteer companies to reserves. When the details of the new program are completed, and former Mountain Battalion Chief Dan Johnson said that would be this month, the CSA 38 committee wants to initiate an effort to augment the non-career staff at Station 23 (Pine Cove).

Another changing of the guard, affecting CSA 38, was the announcement that Johnson was attending his last CSA 38 meeting. He has been promoted to the CAL FIRE assistant chief in charge of the Pilot Rock Conservation Camp in San Bernardino County. His replacement, Chief Sean Dakin, former Temecula fire marshal, attended the meeting and was introduced to the Advisory Committee.