A Letter From Inside The Firehouse......Page B3

Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre edition

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A Letter From Inside The Firehouse......Page B3





Sierra Madre is exploring the possibility 
of teaming up with the City of Arcadia 
in order to increase fire response and 
suppression services, but at the cost of 
eliminating fire department positions. 

Members of the community, along with 
staff of the fire department, paramedics 
and police department turned out at 
Tuesday’s City Council meeting to 
express concerns and show support 
for the proposed plan with the city’s 
neighbor to the South. 

The first step in the strategy will be the 
approval of a non-binding term sheet 
which lays out the conditions of the 
agreement with Arcadia. This would 
include fire suppression and related 
services to all areas of Sierra Madre to be 
provided by Arcadia, who will receive 
compensation not to exceed $800,000 
during year one of the agreement. Sierra 
Madre would continue to provide fire 
prevention services to residents such 
as fire inspections, brush inspections, 
Fire Marshall duties, in addition to 
Emergency Medical and Ambulance 

The second step is causing the greatest 
concern among the community and 
emergency services personnel—the 
reorganization of the Sierra Madre Fire 
Department. This would involve the 
elimination of one Fire Chief position, 
three Fire Captain positions, three Fire 
Engineer positions, and all part-time 
Fire Engineer and Firefighter positions. 

In 2018 (through December 1), Sierra 
Madre Fire Department received 945 
total calls for services. Of those calls, 
767 (81.16%) were for ambulance 
services. There were three calls for 
structure fires during the same time 
period. Under the current system, 
one fire engine would be deployed 
during such a call, along with one 
rescue ambulance. In a bigger fire 
scenario, Sierra Madre would depend 
on neighboring towns such as Arcadia, 
Monrovia and Pasadena to provide 
support, which they are not required. 

According to Interim Fire Chief Kurt 
Norwood, the ideal situation would 
be for Sierra Madre to be included in 
the unified response Verdugo system 
(automatic aid). With the benefit of 
automatic aid, Sierra Madre would 
receive three fire engines, two fire 
trucks, one Battalion Chief, and 
one Rescue Ambulance to “working 
fire” calls. This would total 18 to 23 
fire service personnel dispatched 

The City is hoping by teaming up with 
Arcadia, who already participates as a 
member of the Verdugo System, getting 
access to automatic aid may become 
an attainable goal. Sierra Madre, as a 
result, will automatically receive a fire 
engine from Arcadia on all EMS calls. 
There will also be significant cost- 
saving for the city, though cutting fire 
personnel and an engine from Sierra 
Madre is causing some alarm among 
residents and current fire, EMS and 
police staff. 

“This plan is going to eliminate some 
of the resources we need,” according to 
Sierra Madre firefighter Mark Doosan. 
“You need at least four to six people to 
run these calls—you are going to have 
two paramedics respond to a call in 
the city and wait for another resource 
to come and help on that rescue. We 
are adding 1,000 calls to that fire 
station [Arcadia]. We are taking a huge 
resource for the city and [throwing 
it] away for a monetary amount…I 
hate to see this community lose such 
a resource that has a strong history in 
this city,” Doosan said. 

Retired Sierra Madre Fire Captain 
Christine Lowe, had a different take 
on this issue. “The one reason I am 
supporting this proposal is that the 
response times that we’re looking 
at if we respond with an automatic 
aid… will dispatch the closest engine 
company. That will save time and 
increases your personnel,” Lowe notes.

 Paramedic Alan Hodge also voiced 
concern over resources. “The city 
of Arcadia is also suffering from a 
budget deficit and is declaring a fiscal 
emergency. What is the plan if they take 
over our fire suppression services and 
they have to look at cutting services as 
well?” Hodge asked. “I never heard of a 
fire department that doesn’t have a fire 
engine,” he added. 

Sierra Madre Police Officer Lara Leduc 
stated her unease with response time if 
cuts are made. “The police department 
responds on a lot of critical medical 
calls so having an engine that’s further 
away you are taking away from police 
resources. If the paramedics are doing 
CPR on someone, and a hot call comes 
for the police department of a robbery 
in progress, we’re probably not going 
to leave because we are helping the 
paramedics. If my mom was on the 
floor and needed CPR and couldn’t be 
moved, I don’t want to wait an extra 
two minutes for Pasadena or Arcadia…
to get my mom to the hospital,” Leduc 

Some residents addressed the Council 
about not being fully informed about 
the cuts and the plan being pushed 
through “fast” without more meetings 
and discussion. 

City Manager Gabriel Engeland 
emphasized the importance of 
automatic aid in the wake of the Mt. 
Wilson fire back in 2008 where the city 
didn’t have the personnel to handle the 
fire. This prompted the city to fill more 
positions over the years. 

In addition to losing positions, the 
City will create a new position of Fire 
and EMS Department Head and add a 
Full-Time Medic, as well as retaining 
current Fire Medic positions. All off 
this, of course, depends on agreeing on 
a deal with Arcadia first. 

City Council approved the term sheet 
and approved the reorganization of 
the fire department and now will wait 
to see if they can finalize an agreement 
with Arcadia. 

Sierra Madre for many years 
prided itself on its all-volunteer fire 
department, but with the increase in 
fires in recent years, felt the need to 
bring in professional staff to ensure the 
safety of the community. 

The Sierra Madre Fire Department has successfully evolved from a successful and well respected all volunteer 
organization to a fully paid department. Above, now Captain Greg Christmas congratulates one of 
the SMFD first graduates from its training academy in 2008. Retired Chief Steve Heydorf looks on.

 Much of the public reaction to 
Tuesday's announcement of the 'reorganization' 
of Sierra Madre's Fire 
Department has been on Social Media 
where emotions are running wild in 
opposition to the proposal. Displeasure 
with the lack of prior notice, the 
agenda report that suggests that a decision 
has already been made to move 
the department without the input of 
the public and most importantly, the 
outrage at even the suggestion that the 
SM Fire Department contract out fire 
services to another city has ignited a 
'firestorm' of its own.

 However, according to City Manager 
Gabe Engeland, the angst among 
residents is premature. In a lengthy 
interview with Engeland on Wednesday, 
Engeland reiterated several times 
that 'no decision has been made'.

 Instead, he says his actions are just 
a "parallel course" to getting Sierra 
Madre the highly valued Automatic 

 Over the years, the issue of whether 
or not Sierra Madre was or would 
ever be eligible to participate in the 
Verdugo Communications Center* 
with neighboring cities has been discussed. 
The obstacle has been the 
fact that SMFD was a Volunteer Fire 
Department without full time employees. 
Today, that is no longer the 
case as according to the city manager, 
the SMFD is now a fully paid department 
with an acting Fire Chief, 3 full 
time Captains, 1 full time Engineer, 6 
full time Fire Medics, and 1 part time 
Medic. In addition, the city is in the 
process of hiring 2 additional full 
time engineers. All positions are fully 
funded. "Money is not the issue", 
says Engeland, "Safety is".

 With the addition of the new employees, 
Sierra Madre will be eligible, 
according to the standards established 
for participating in the Verdugo Hills 
Communications group. 

 Engeland indicated that in the event 
the city is once again denied automatic 
aid/mutual aid status with Verdugo, 
the proposed contract with Arcadia 
would give the city the auto/mutual 

 [In emergency services, mutual aid 
is an agreement among emergency 
responders to lend assistance across 
jurisdictional boundaries. This may 
occur due to an emergency response 
that exceeds local resources, such as 
a disaster or a multiple-alarm fire. 
Mutual aid may be ad hoc, requested 
only when such an emergency occurs. 
It may also be a formal standing 
agreement for cooperative emergency 
management on a continuing basis, 
such as ensuring that resources are 
dispatched from the nearest fire station, 
regardless of which side of the 
jurisdictional boundary the incident 
is on. Agreements that send closest 
resources are regularly referred to as 
"automatic aid agreements".] These 
designations have been a goal of the 
SMFD for years.

 Engeland is not confident that 
Verdugo will grant Sierra Madre the 
classification requested, despite the 
changes that have been made in accordance 
with standards that are well 
established throughout the state. He 
asked the council to to authorize submission 
of the proposal to Arcadia to 
reorganize the SMFD. As indicated in 
the related story, the council approved 
the submission and also authorized 
the payment of $20,000 to Arcadia to 
'analyze' the request. Engeland said 
he prefers to continue staffing the department 
and preparing the request 
for Verdugo while also proceeding 
with the request to Arcadia to take 
over fire services from Sierra Madre. 
He called this his "Parallel Approach".

 Engeland has been successful in 
many of his endeavors since being 
hired by the city. (cont. page 2) 

A PARALLEL APPROACH by Susan Henderson


According to a social 
media post from the 
Sierra Madre Police 
Department, Captain 
Donna Cayson saidgoodbye 
to the City of 
Sierra Madre and the 
fine women and men 
of the SMPD on Friday. 
For the residents 
of the community that 
she was not able to 
speak with, Donna has 
expressed her sincere 
appreciation for having 
the opportunity to 
serve this community 
and for the fond memories 
she will take with 
her. We all wish her 
the best.

Mountain Views News 80 W Sierra Madre Blvd. No. 327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.609.3285 Email: editor@mtnviewsnews.com Website: www.mtnviewsnews.com

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Mountain Views News 80 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. #327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.604.4548 www.mtnviewsnews.com