Back to the Future - An Attempt to Regain a Lost Automatic Aid Agreement Underway?

In 1992, an Automatic Aid Agreement was established between the Cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.
In return for La Habra Heights Fire Department responding to northern La Habra, the La Habra Fire Department would respond to all of La Habra Heights. La Habra Heights cancelled the paramedic agreement effective January 1, 2005. It is unclear when Automatic Aid was terminated.

In early 2007, the La Habra Heights Fire Department was riding high, protecting the community with the support of the City Council.

Two engines were staffed, a Paramedic unit provided medical aid, the Fire Academy had multiple classes a year providing a source of volunteers for the department, and finances were sound.

The City was on the verge of an Automatic Aid agreement to provide rapid response into the City from surrounding Los Angeles County Fire Stations.

Listen to the 2 minute video below as then City Manager Ron Bates describes the benefits of Automatic Aid and the Fire Chief lists the L.A. County stations that would be available to the City.

Watch Explantion of Automatic Aid in April 2007


Below are a map and locations of Los Angeles County Stations that would have responded to La Habra Heights, according to the Fire Chief in 2007, under the then pending agreement.


Map of 2007 Proposed Response Stations to La Habra Heights

B

FIRE STATION #28 - HDQTRS
7733 GREENLEAF AVE
WHITTIER, 90602

C

FIRE STATION #91
2691 S TURNBULL CYN RD
HACIENDA HEIGHTS, 91745

D

FIRE STATION #118
17056 GALE AVE
INDUSTRY, 91748

E

FIRE STATION #119
20480 E PATHFINDER RD
WALNUT, 91789

F

FIRE STATION #191
850 W. LA HABRA BLVD
LA HABRA, 90631

G

FIRE STATION #192
520 S. HARBOR
LA HABRA, 90631

H

FIRE STATION #194
1401 SOUTH BEACH BLVD. UNIT "L"
LA HABRA, 90631

A

LA HABRA HEIGHTS 1
1245 HACIENDA RD
LA HABRA HEIGHTS


Shortly after the March 2007 election of Layne Baroldi and Howard Vipperman, the pending agreement unraveled.

Instead of the whole city being under the Automatic Aid agreement, the new City Council was only able to salvage Automatic Aid for a small portion of the west Heights, shown below in orange. In return, La Habra Heights Fire Department provides Automatic Aid to the La Habra and Whittier area in green.

Map of actual Auto Aid area

Map Courtesy of LHH Fire Watch


2010 - A Changed Fire Department


Fast forward to 2010 to a different La Habra Heights Fire Department.

In March 2010, after a review by the Insurance Services Office, the fire suppression capability of the Department declined from 3 to 5, on a scale of 1 - 10 with 1 being the best.

In contrast, the La Habra Heights County Water District improved its rating from 3 to 1, without raising rates, and after a concerted effort to improve fire fighting water supplies and delivery systems.

The Fire Chief said in a response letter that nothing would be done to improve the Fire Department rating.

At a later City Council meeting, the Fire Chief said that the ISO rating didn't mean anything.

The City is only staffing one fire engine.(See change in City web site below.)

On May 28, 2010, a house fire broke out at 541 East Rd. According to records released by the City under the Public Records Act only one City engine responded
Additional assistance from surrounding areas arrived later under mutual aid.

Actual City Web Site Screen Shots - Before & After Staffing Reductions
Before - June 2, 2010 City Web site shows 2 engines staffed per day
After - June 24, 2010 City Web site shows only 1 engine staffed per day

The City Council defunded the Fire Training Academy.

The Fire Chief was a Full Time position with total compensation of $105,000 in 2008.
2010 brought a, less than 20 hours per week, part-time Fire Chief at $96,000.

A $15 per hour intern was promoted to a $62,000 Management Analyst to be paid out the Fire Dept Budget.

All full time Fire Department personnel are gone, with duties taken over by regular City staff.

Revenue that used to be directed to the Fire Department now goes into the regular City coffers first.

The City Council reworked the Fire Department books for the past five years, turning surpluses into deficits, concluding the department is bankrupt and taxes need to be raised.

The Fire Tax was raised in violation of the code and without voter approval.

A new $350,000 Fire Engine and $400,000 Fire Dormitories have not coincided with improved service for the City.

Back to the Future

In a phone interview, Los Angeles County Fire Department Information Officer Fred Stowers said that the City of La Habra Heights and the Los Angeles County Fire Department are working on an updated Automatic Aid Agreement, but would not provide details.

At this time, it is not public whether the agreement will be as comprehensive as the original 2007 agreement, or a limited improvement on the current agreement.
In 2010, La Habra Heights has less available to offer than in 2007.

In a 2007 letter to the Whittier Daily News about automatic aid, Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman concluded, "these agreements are designed to enhance existing local emergency delivery systems, not replace them."