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History of the Department

City of Montclair

Fire Department

 

Prior to January 1, 1967, the Montclair Fire Department was known as the Monte Vista County Fire Protection District. The Fire District was formed by a special election in July of 1948. A bond election was held in September of 1949, at which time the voters elected to spend $50,000 for the purchase of fire equipment and the construction of a fire station. With the passage of the bond measure, the County Board of Supervisors appointed a five-man Board of Commissioners. The original board members were: President: P. H. Brown, citrus rancher; Secretary: William H. Coates, Superintendent of the Monte Vista Water District; Commissioners: G. R. Wolfe, local businessman; B. F. Allen, rancher; and R. N. Coffey, rancher and salesman.

Following organization, the board of Commissioners awarded a $25,000 contract to construct a fire station. The balance of the bond provisions was directed toward the purchase of fire department equipment, including furnishings and radio equipment. This original station, located at
10585 Central Avenue
, was opened in October of 1950.

The Fire District started operation with three full-time employees: William A. OíHara, Fire Chief, Harold G. Duncan, and Elmer N. Snyder. Eight call-men assisted these three men. The Fire District consisted of the area between the cities of
Pomona and Ontario, covering approximately 6.5 square miles. It was bounded on the north by Ninth Street in Upland and on the south by Phillips Boulevard
. The District's population was approximately 5,000, and it had an assessed valuation of $3.5 million. The apparatus used to provide protection were a 1943 Chevrolet, 500 gpm pumper; a 1948 Ford high-pressure unit; and the chief's vehicle, a 1950 Ford pickup with a 15 gpm high-pressure pump and a 65-gallon water tank.

The three paid men worked a 72-hour workweek, on a 24-hour shift schedule. When an alarm was received, the man on duty would write the address on a blackboard and sound the recall siren. He would then respond by himself in the 1948 Ford high-pressure unit. The call-men would respond to the station, read the address on the blackboard, and respond with the 1943 pumper.

 

In 1951, the Pacific Fire Rating Bureau, the predecessor to the Insurance Services Office (ISO), surveyed the District and placed it in a Class 8 insurance rating category.

On
January 1, 1953, after the resignation of Chief OíHara, Harold G. Duncan was appointed as acting chief of the department. Effective July 1, 1953
, Chief Duncan was officially appointed as the Fire Chief. At 24 years of age, he was the youngest fire chief in the state.

In 1959, a new Ford panel truck was added as the Districtís first rescue unit, and by 1962, when the ISO again evaluated the District, two pumpers had been added to the fleet; a 1954 G.M.C., 1,000 gpm pumper and a 1961 Crown, 1250 gpm pumper. The 1962 ISO rating resulted in the major portion of the District being placed in Class 6 insurance rating category. In 1964, a private consulting firm was employed by the City of
Montclair
and the Fire District for a resurvey of fire protection and recommendations. At that time, it was hoped that by following the consulting firm's recommendations, a Class 4 rating could be attained. By 1965, the department had grown to a full-time complement of 18 men and 10 call-men, and the population served had increased to 28,000, with an assessed valuation of $33,165,000.

On
January 1, 1967, the City of Montclair assumed the entire fire department operation, including that unincorporated area served by the Monte Vista Fire Protection District. In keeping with the recommendations of the private survey, plans were made for the construction of new fire stations, the purchase of additional apparatus, and the hiring of additional personnel. In February of 1970, dedication ceremonies were held at the two new fire stations, the headquarters station, Station No 1, located at 8901 Monte Vista Avenue, and Station No. 2, located at 10825 Monte Vista Avenue. In addition to the new stations, the department purchased two 1970 Crown 1,500 gpm pumpers and an 85-foot Crown aerial platform. By 1970, the department had also hired 15 additional personnel, including a secretary. In 1973, the ISO performed a scheduled evaluation survey, which resulted in the current overall Class 3 insurance rating, with a Class 1 rating for the department itself. In 1983, the department was again graded by ISO and the city retained its 1973 rating.

In August of 1983, after more than thirty years of continuous service, Chief Duncan retired and Loren L. Pettis was appointed as the Fire Chief. Under the command of Chief Pettis, the department went through several organizational changes. The changes included restructuring of the administrative staff, restructuring of the suppression division, and the transfer of the Code Enforcement Unit from the City's Planning Department to the Fire Department. In 1988, the two 1970 Crown pumpers and the 1970 Crown aerial platform were replaced by two 1988 Emergency One 1,500 gpm quints.

As part of a citywide reorganization, in September 1992, the Code Enforcement Unit was transferred from Community Development to the Fire Department. Since Code Enforcement has been assigned to the fire department, it has gone through several changes. The unit has also become more creative in addressing code violations. One of the programs created by the unit is the Citizens Against Unwanted Trash In Our Neighborhoods or the C.A.U.T.I.O.N. program. This program organizes property owners and residents to perform a neighborhood cleanup in targeted areas.

The program has grown slowly but steadily. The first few cleanups were performed with the assistance of Public Works employees, using tools and equipment borrowed from Public Works. As the program grew in popularity and demand, Code Enforcement began acquiring its own tools so that it would not have to impose on other agencies or departments. Eventually the tool inventory of the C.A.U.T.I.O.N. program grew so much that it needed its own trailer to store and transport its equipment. With funds provided by the City Clerk's Solid Waste and Recycling program a custom made C.A.U.T.I.O.N. trailer was put into service in March 2001.


In April of 1997, Chief Pettis retired and Division Chief/Fire Marshal Gary A. Turner was appointed as the Fire Department's fourth Fire Chief. Chief Turner spent his entire career with the Montclair Fire Department. He was originally hired as a Reserve Firefighter in April of 1972 and was hired as a full-time Firefighter in July of the same year. Like his predecessor, Chief Turner also accomplished several organizational changes affecting all aspects of the Department.

In November 1998, the City Council solicited bids from four surrounding fire agencies to provide fire protection services for the City of
Montclair. In October 1999, the City Council voted to retain the services of its own fire department, with direction to improve the level of emergency medical services. In March 2000, Montclair's residents were asked to vote on Emergency Medical Service assessment that would have cost property owners $2.00 per month. The measure received 61.5% voter approval, but required 66.6% approval for passage. While the campaign did not garner the required percentage of voter approval, it did enlighten the community about the different levels of emergency medical services that could be provided by the fire department. Working within the parameters given by City Council, improve the level of emergency medical service, without using General Fund sources, fire department staff explored various funding possibilities and identified four funding sources that were eventually implemented.

The first funding source was billing for emergency medical services. Four rates were established for services; resident BLS ($0), resident ALS ($100), non-resident BLS ($150) and non-resident ALS ($250). The second funding source was a resident and business subscription program that covers unlimited fire department provided emergency medical services for $24 for residents, and $50 or $100 per year for businesses as determined by the number of employees. The third funding source was a public/private partnership with a local community college. The college reimburses the fire department for certain training costs provided by the fire department. The fourth funding source is to be another public/private partnership with the local ambulance provider. As long as the fire department and the ambulance company satisfy County required response times the ambulance provider can reallocate some of it's resources. A portion of the savings realized by the reallocation of ambulance resources will be passed through to the fire department.

With the various funding mechanisms in place, City Council authorized the fire department to begin providing paramedic service on
July 1, 2001
. The program was initiated with Medic Squad 151 and five paramedics. The program was so successful and popular that City Council authorized hiring a Firefighter/Paramedic which allowed the second unit (Medic Engine 152) to go into service in October 2001.

It must be noted that the paramedic program would never have been realized if the suppression personnel had not demonstrated their strong commitment to improving emergency medical services. This was accomplished by a total of 8 firefighters putting themselves through paramedic school, with only financial assistance from the department. Three of the personnel attained jobs with other agencies before we could start the program, but their selfless dedication and obvious commitment were the impetus for pursuing and implementing a paramedic program.

Concurrent to implementing the paramedic program, the fire department put two new pumpers into service. In February 2000, a 1999 KME 1500 gpm pumper was placed into service as Engine 152, later becoming Medic Engine 152. In February 2001, a 2000 KME 1500 gpm pumper was placed into service as Engine 151. One of the E-Ones was sold to a fire department in
Pennsylvania
and the other E-One became a Reserve pumper.

In 2003, a 2002 KME rescue replaced the 1996 Chevrolet 1-ton as Medic Squad 151. The KME squad is built on a Ford F-550 chassis, with an extended cab and a custom box. Also in 2003, the position of Emergency Medical Coordinator was created and added to the staff of the department.

During 2004 the fire department converted to a new records management system and mobile data computers (MDCs) were installed in all of the emergency equipment.

In December 2005, Fire Chief Gary Turner retired after 33 1/2 years of service to the City of Montclair. Division Chief Daniel Tapia was his replacement and became the fifth Fire Chief of the Department. Chief Tapia, a 31-year fire service professional, the last 28 with Montclair, served as Division Chief for 14 years before becoming the Fire Chief. As a Division Chief, Chief Tapia's assignments included oversight of the Operations Division, and later, he transferred to the Administration Division where he was responsible for Fire Prevention Bureau and Code Enforcement Unit personnel.

In May of 2007, Fire Chief Tapia retired after 29 years of service, and Deputy Fire Chief Troy Ament was appointed as the Fire Department's sixth Fire Chief.

While the Montclair Fire Department will embrace its past, it will also continue to seek methods, technologies, and ideas for improving the services provided to our residents and visitors.


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