Lillian Boyd, The Capistrano Dispatch
As fire season in California is underway, firefighting agencies across the state are responding to dozens of major fire incidents—some fires burning as much as 122,000 acres.
While Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) has offered support to other agencies battling nearby fires, including the Bobcat Fire in Los Angeles County and Valley Fire in San Diego County, local OCFA fire stations face a unique set of challenges aside from fires.
Crewmembers for both Stations 29 and 30, in Capistrano Beach and Dana Point, respectively, attest that their most common calls are for medical emergencies.
“The most common calls we get are falls,” said Fire Capt. Kirk Grant, of Station 30. “We have an aging population, and most often we respond to seniors who have had accidents. We respond to collisions. In the summertime, we have visitors who aren’t quite as comfortable in our beaches, so we respond to coastal emergency calls, too.”
Both fire stations are paramedic engine companies, staffed by a paramedic fire captain, engineer, firefighter paramedic and a firefighter. On medical incidents requiring a paramedic to continue care on the way to the hospital, the firefighter paramedic will do so.
“The remainder of the crew, including the paramedic fire captain, will go back into service, which allows Dana Point to have uninterrupted advanced life support,” said OCFA public information officer Thanh Nguyen.
In 2019, Station 29 responded to 1,694 incidents and Station 30 responded to 1,905 incidents—all ranging in a variety of calls, crews say. Nguyen predicts that the emergence of COVID-19 will have an impact on response numbers for 2020. This year, Capt. Cory Gallup with Station 29 says that COVID-19 has dictated that OCFA completely rearrange its structure.
“We’ve always been good about using (personal protective equipment), but then all of a sudden, there a huge need for PPE,” Gallup said. “We’re much more cautious about where we place our boots and our gear. We’re mindful of what we could potentially bring home.”
Nguyen adds that both fire stations respond to various types of incidents based on their locations. Brush responses are standard when Station 30 is handling calls outside Capistrano Beach but within its larger response area, which includes parts of Ortega Highway and Camp Pendleton.
Both stations often respond to paramedic medical calls and rescues on the coast. In alignment with OCFA’s latest campaign to raise awareness on drowning incidents, Gallup urges parents and guardians to keep a close eye on young children in the water.
“It can only take a second,” Gallup said. “We live in Southern California. We have a lot of pools, and we have a lot of ocean. Just always make sure someone is watching the water.”
In accordance with September being Disaster Preparedness Month, OCFA officials encourage all households to assemble a disaster response plan. The agency recommends coordinating with relatives, coworkers, schools and neighbors, and to designate meeting places outside the home.
Residents can register for AlertOC, which is the county’s emergency notification system. For more information on creating an emergency supply kit and preparing your home, visit ocfa.org.