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City of Canyon Lake provides update on establishing new fire department

Chief Jeff LaTendresse. Photo provided by the City of Canyon Lake.

March 1 marked the completion of Interim Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse’s first month working to establish and create a municipal fire department for the City of Canyon Lake.

Over the past month, Latendresse has designed and ordered two new fire engines that will serve the city. These leases/purchases were identified as necessary in the feasibility analysis conducted for the city in 2020 by Emergency Services Consulting International.

The lease/purchase agreements were approved at the February 17 Special City Council Meeting. Included in the order is a Type I engine at a cost of $ 719,662.29. It will be leased for 10 years with an annual payment of $84,151.21. Also included is a Type VI engine at a cost of $261,920. It will be leased for seven years with an annual payment of $41,063. 

The Type VI engine is smaller and designed to access areas, such as wildland fires, that cannot be reached by larger engines. The city will own the engines at the end of their lease periods. Equipment still needs to be purchased for both engines.

The engines are expected to be delivered in November. Once they arrive, they will need to be outfitted with equipment, and personnel will need to be trained on the engines, before they can go into service.

LaTendresse is working on a contingency plan to begin operations should the new equipment not be available for service on the transition date. This is possible due to the city owning the existing fire engine currently in use at Station 60.

“Equipment and staffing for the Canyon Lake Fire Department will meet or exceed Riverside County and State of California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) standards,” LaTendresse said.

A Type I engine must meet certain equipment standards. Equipment the engine must have include a fire pump capable of flowing at least 1,000 gallons per minute, a water tank with at least 300 gallons, at least 1,200 feet of two-and-a-half-inch fire hose, 500 feet of one-and-a-half-inch fire hose, three ground ladders, and a master stream nozzle that will flow at least 500 gallons per minute.

The second factor in being considered a Type I engine is staffing, or the number of firefighters assigned to the engine. The current engine assigned to Canyon Lake has three firefighters assigned, as is standard across Riverside County. There are exceptions, but three personnel is considered standard practice. This staffing standard is also accepted by Cal OES, the agency that oversees all the mutual aid responses that occur up and down the state during wildland fire season.

“The new Canyon Lake Fire Department will always have at least three full-time, fully trained, and certified firefighters assigned,” LaTendresse said. “In addition, we are going to establish a robust reserve firefighter program, and plan to have reserve firefighters on-duty each day serving alongside our full-time personnel. When the city begins fire operations on January 1, 2022, we will exceed the equipment standards and meet the personnel requirements established by the state.”

In addition to the purchase of the engines, the city applied for an Assistant to Firefighters Grant (AFG) from FEMA. The $72,000 grant is intended to fund a source capture diesel exhaust system. Diesel fumes are a known carcinogen and a potential health concern to firefighters. This new system would be installed in each of the apparatus bays at the fire station, capturing the exhaust from the engines and venting it to the outside. The city is also working on a grant application that would provide funding for additional firefighters.

LaTendresse has been working to finalize the new fire department’s budget, meeting with stakeholders, negotiating agreements, and drafting the policies that will guide operations.

LaTendresse plans to provide monthly updates to the City Council and keep the general public informed of the progress being made to establish the new fire department. He said is looking forward to addressing all aspects of establishing a fire department, including questions from residents. In future updates, LaTendresse will address National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1710.

Type I engine.
Type VI engine.
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