A Look Inside Poway’s Fire Houses
Department Celebrates 50th Year Serving the Community
Established in 1961 by the Poway Municipal Water District, the Poway Fire Department originally was staffed by reserve/volunteer firefighters and the original fire station was on Community Road. Today, the department protects 37 sq. mi. utilizing three stations, three chief officers, 48 sworn fire suppression personnel, one fire inspector, two administrative assistants, and two contract inspectors – all under the direction of Director of Safety Services Mark Sanchez.
Q&A with Fire Division Chief Kevin HitchcockFire Division Chief Kevin Hitchcock, a 25-year veteran, provided answers to a variety of questions and gave insight into the workings and operations of the department.
92064 Question: What is the structure of the fire stations, in terms of personnel and shifts?
Chief: There are three divisions of firefighters – A, B, C. Each division works a rotating 24-hour shift schedule. Additionally, there is an ambulance based at each station with a crew of two.
92064 Question: What is the structure of the Poway Fire Department?
Chief: Our “Fire Chief” actually is the Director of Safety Services. He is responsible for overall management of the fire department, and also oversees the law enforcement contract with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. He divides his time between the two departments. There are three Fire Division Chiefs who each are responsible to manage specific divisions within the department. Those divisions are, Fire Prevention, Fire Administration/Disaster Preparedness, and Operations/Training/Emergency Medical Services. The division chiefs also respond to emergencies as duty chief. The personnel who staff the fire engines, fire truck and ambulances work a typical firefighters’ schedule by working 24-hour shifts. We have 17 firefighters on duty each day, 24 hours a day to respond to emergency incidents.
92064 Question: Can you give us some statistics about the equipment and the department?
Chief: We staff three fire engines, one aerial ladder truck, and two ALS ambulances. Two of the fire engine crews also cross-staff a wild land brush fire engine, and the third engine crew staffs a State of California OES engine that can respond to emergencies throughout the state of California. The department responded to approximately 3,800 incidents last year.
92064 Question: What is the area served by the department?
Chief: The City of Poway has approximately 55,000 residents over an area of 37 sq. mi. The city has a developing business park located in the southern area of the city. There is a thriving business area located along Poway Road. The remaining areas are typically residential areas, with a largely undeveloped area on the eastern area of the city. This area has some residential developments, but mostly is left as undeveloped open space.
92064 Question: What type of mutual aid agreements are in place for the department?
Chief: The Poway Fire Department has established mutual aid agreements with its neighboring agencies, and also participates in the State of California Master Mutual Aid Agreement. These agreements allow our resources the ability to provide an excellent level of fire and emergency protection to our residents and at the same time provide assistance to other communities when a significant emergency occurs in their jurisdiction.
92064 Question: What is the history of the department?
Chief: The Poway Fire Department is proud to be recognizing our 50-year anniversary later this year. The department was started in October 1961 with one fire station located on Community Road. We will be participating in several events this year in recognition of this milestone in our organization. Two of our fire stations were constructed in 1980 when the city incorporated. The third station was constructed in 2006.
92064 Question: What is the typical shift for Poway firefighters?
Chief: Our personnel work 24-hour shifts, and work 56 hours per week.
92064 Question: Firefighters are known for their cooking skills; does the department have a resident “top chef” – someone who has a reputation for good meals?
Chief: We have many great cooks and they are spread out among the three divisions. (Firefighter/Paramedic D.J. Schroeder provides a special favorite recipe of his for readers of 92064 Magazine on page 18 of this issue).
92064 Question: What type of ongoing training occurs within the department?
Chief: We have an annual training plan that provides a minimum of 20 hours of training per person each month. This training covers a wide range of topics from wild land firefighting to Paramedic recertification training. The department is fortunate to have a state of the art four-story training facility located in the city. All personnel regularly visit the facility to practice essential firefighting skills. We are able to provide live fire training at the facility. This is extremely valuable for our newer personnel.
92064 Question: What type of outreach and education programs does the department promote?
Chief: The department supports the ROP program at West Hills High School. We work closely with the program coordinator to provide whatever assistance we can. This usually is in the form of use of the training facility, and interactive training with our personnel. The City of Poway also has a Community Emergency Response Team. The CERT members are residents that have received the basic training to become a member of the team. The team meets on a quarterly basis to review skills and new information is shared. The department also is very active with the local paramedic training institutions. Some of our personnel are instructors in the program, and we support the students as they come into the field to further develop their paramedic skills and abilities.
92064 Question: What is the most common misconception about firefighters and emergency personnel?
Chief: It is often misunderstood why three firefighters need to shop at the local grocery store. The team must stay together as they could be called for an emergency incident at any time. We try to leave one person at the fire engine, so that they can answer questions from citizens who come up to the engine. We also are more than happy to show the little ones a quick tour of the fire engine while we are in the parking lot. And people often ask why a fire engine goes to emergency medical incidents. Our fire engines have at least one paramedic/firefighter on them (and) the needed equipment to provide advanced life support to a patient prior to the arrival of the ambulance.
92064 Question: What are the biggest issues facing the department in the next couple of years?
Chief: As with all departments in the city, the fire department is suffering budget cuts as we work through these challenging economic times. We will need to continue to work through these challenges as the economy continues a slow recovery.
92064 Question: Can you describe the best or most gratifying aspect of serving the residents of Poway?
Chief: When our personnel are able to respond to the emergency call, and assist the residents through what may be the worst day of their life in a manner that saves a life, or lessons the impact and destruction – it is gratifying and makes all the training and preparation worth the effort.
92064 Question: How can community residents schedule fire inspections or visits to the facilities?
Chief: We routinely give safety talks to groups of adults and youths in Poway. Just call our administrative assistant at 858-668-4466 and she will direct your request to the appropriate person.
92064 Question: Is there anything else our readers may want to know about the department?
Chief: Each member of the Poway Fire Department recognizes the support and trust we are entrusted with from the community we serve. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work within such a special community as Poway. We will continue to provide the best customer service possible to each person we interact with.
The Poway Municipal Water District established the Poway Fire Department in October 1961. The Fire Department began providing emergency services from its first fire station located on Community Road with one fire engine. The Poway Firefighters Association purchased and operated Poway’s only ambulance. This service eventually was turned over to the Fire Department due to the rising operating expenses.
As call volume increased, a second fire engine was added in 1964. Due to long response times and a greater demand for services, a second fire station was built in the northern portion of the district on Lake Poway Road. In 1973, the second fire engine was moved from Station One into the newly constructed Station Two.
In 1976, firefighter/paramedics began operating the ambulance. This enhancement significantly improved the delivery of pre-hospital care without increasing staffing levels. This was achieved by the current work force assuming a dual role of firefighter and paramedic. In 1998, the Department of Safety Services again enhanced its paramedic service by including a firefighter/paramedic on both Engine One and Engine Two. The effect of this move was to create a performance standard to deliver advanced life support within six minutes 90 percent of the time.
The Poway Municipal Water District made a strategic decision in 1977 by determining that a needs assessment was necessary to evaluate station location, apparatus, and personnel needs for the community. As a result of this study completed by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) in 1978, a bond issue was placed on the ballot to relocate both Station One and Station Two and to purchase new apparatus. The bond issue passed with 79 percent of the voters in favor, and Station One and Station Two were moved to their existing locations. The study also identified suggested station locations based on future growth in the area. These locations were: Twin Peaks and Pomerado Road; Midland Road and Del Poniente Road; Poway Road and Highway 67.
After incorporation in 1980, the Poway Fire Department became the Safety Services Department under the direction of the City of Poway. With the additional demand for services, the City of Poway added a second paramedic ambulance, which was located in an old doctors office off of Monte Vista Rd in 2001. In 2003, Engine 53, was placed into service and Station One became a dual house running two engines until a temporary Station Three was set up on Pomerado Road at Leone Way.
The current Station Three opened in 2005.
Source: Poway.org[/tab] [tab title=”Poway Fire Department Timeline”]1961 The Poway Municipal Water District established the Poway Fire Department in October 1961 with James Westling as the first Fire Chief. The Fire Department began providing services from Fire Station One located on Community Road with a 1961 Ford station wagon as the Chief’s car and a 1961 American LaFrance Fire engine built on a Ford Chassis.
1964 As call volume increased, a second Ford-American LaFrance was purchased in 1964 and both engines worked out of Fire Station One.
1967 Poway Firefighters Association purchased and operated Poway’s only ambulance.
1970 The ambulance service was turned over to the Poway Municipal Water District due to the rising operating expenses.
1973 Due to long response times and a greater demand for services, a second station was built on Lake Poway Road in 1973. Capt. Von Ruple served as the department’s second Fire Chief.
1974 Bill Bond became the third Fire Chief.
1975 The Poway Firefighters began a door-to-door campaign to collect donations to help implement the paramedic service.
One of the American LaFrance engines was replaced by a Mack engines. These new Mack fire engines allowed firefighters to ride in seats in an open cab rather than on the tailboard thereby increasing firefighter safety. The other American LaFrance engine was replaced by a Mack engine in 1978. The two American LaFrance engines served as reserve engines well into the 1980s.
1976 Seven Poway Firefighters cross-trained as paramedics and began operating the department’s ambulance. This enhancement significantly improved the delivery of pre-hospital care without increasing staffing levels. The Poway Firefighters built two brush engines out of military surplus cargo transports.
1977 The Poway Municipal Water District made a strategic decision by determining that a needs assessment was necessary to evaluate station location, apparatus, and personnel needs for the community.
1978 As result of this study completed by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), a bond issue was placed on the ballot to relocate both Stations One and Two and to purchase new apparatus. The bond issue passed with 79 percent of the voters in favor. The study also identified suggested station locations based on projected growth of the area. These locations were at Twin Peaks and Pomerado Road, Midland Road and Del Poniente Road, and Poway Road and Highway 67. This study was performed before the Poway Business Park was conceived.
1980 After incorporation, the Poway Fire Department became the Safety Services Department under the direction of the City of Poway. Bill Toon became the fourth Fire Chief. The Fire Department moved into the newly constructed Station One at 13050 Community Road and relocated Station Two to its current location at 16912 Westling Court. The Poway Fire Department began contracting dispatch services through the City of San Diego Fire Department. A rescue engine was purchased to replace a 1950s vintage vehicle.
1982 Two new Beck Brush engines replaced the old military brush engines.
1986 The department added a Beck 1,500-gallon water tender to the fleet.
1988 One of the Mack engines was replaced with a 1988 E-One fire engine. This was one of the first four-door, enclosed-cab fire engines in the county. This engine allowed for enhanced firefighter safety and gave the Poway Fire Department the ability to flow an elevated master stream for the protection of the newly built Poway Business Park.
1989 Mark Sanchez becomes the fifth Fire Chief.
1994 The 1990s saw the color change in the Fire Department fleet. In 1994 the first red Pierce engine, ambulance, and staff SUV arrived. The rest of the fleet changed colors as the units ended their service life. The firefighter’s station uniforms changed to meet the new NFPA 1500 standards. The new NFPA-compliant Nomex uniforms were dark blue and offered another enhancement to firefighter safety.
1997 Both brush engines were replaced by BME brush engines.
1998 The department sought to enhance paramedic services by adding paramedics to the engine companies. Some of the former Poway firefighter/paramedics volunteered to recertify as paramedics to save the City hiring additional personnel. This move created a performance standard to deliver advanced life support within six minutes 90 percent of the time.
2001 The department increased staffing to add a second paramedic ambulance which worked out of an office off of Monte Vista Road.
2002 The old water tender was replaced by a Pierce 3000-gallon water tender.
2003 Staffing was increased to add a third engine, which was placed into service out of Station One. A trailer was moved onto the new Station Three construction site as temporary housing for the third engine and the second paramedic unit.
2005 Fire Station Three was completed and opened.
2006 The newly constructed state-of-the-art training tower that was built in the Poway Business Park became operational. The training tower was showcased during the 2007 Fire Expo in San Diego. Fire Departments from across the country have visited or inquired about the tower’s design to use as a blueprint for their future training facilities. This tower replaced a 16-year-old tower that was demolished to accommodate the City Hall expansion. The old training tower saw a lot of use over the years as it was also rented out to other fire agencies for use during their fire academies and pump testing.
2007 The department added a truck company without increasing staffing by taking the fourth person off each engine company. The department’s MDTs were replaced by Mobile Data Computers (MDCs). These new computers show other units on a real time map. The computer GIS map also has building footprints and addresses. The department’s fleet was renumbered and enhancements were added to the satellite tracking of the department fleet.
2008 A countywide preplan system went into use. In 2008 one of the BME brush engines was replaced with a four-wheel-drive Westmark brush engine, and the other is scheduled to be replaced in 2009.
[/tab] [tab title=”Did You Know?”]
Did You Know?
On February 8, 1966, Poway Fire Department suffered its only line-of-duty death with the passing of Capt. Ignatius J. Leone due to a heart attack while responding on a structure fire.
Did You Know?
On October 30, 1967, Capt. Von Ruple and Engineer Glen Olson were overrun by fire and suffered severe burns. Olson received burns again the following year due to a fuel line rupture on one of the LaFrance Fire Engines.
At a Glance
Director of Safety Services: Mark Sanchez
Year installed: 1989
Uniformed personnel: 53
Total employees: 55
Coverage area: 37 sq. mi.
Emergency Phone: 911
Administrative Office: 858-668-4460
Fire Information Line: 858-668-4468
Fire Prevention Office: 858-668-4470 [/tab] [/tabs]