On January 1st, the City of Norco Fire dept. will be dissolved and cease to exist as an individual entity. After many years of discussion, debate and study, the City of Norco has opted to contract with the Riverside County Fire dept. to provide fire protection. The change will occur on January 1st.
As the Riverside County Fire Dept. contracts with the State of California to provide it's paid personnel, the firefighters staffing the city will be Cal-Fire employees. The existing firefighters in Norco will be absorbed into the Cal-Fire/Riverside County Fire system.
The reasons for the change are many. As usual, fiscal and political issues combined to make this happen. The city of Norco has faced fiscal woes for some time and has obtained significant concessions from the Norco Firefighters over the past few years. I don't know the details, but apparently they were not enough.
The city council voted 4-1 back in September to dissolve the fire department, based on a staff report claiming that contracting with the county would save the city approximately $1.4 million. That figure that is questioned by some as overly optimistic, as the city is still on the hook for some existing liabilities and any unexpected costs.
Norco makes the seventh agency that has been dissolved and absorbed into the Riverside County Fire Dept. since my career started in 1981. One city has broken away from the County and re-established their own dept. during that time. Eight departments remain, excluding tribal fire departments.
Of the departments whose patches are in the photo above, the following no longer exist and are now covered by the Riverside County Fire dept:
City of Banning
Rubidoux Fire Protection District
City of Perris
City of San Jacinto
City of Indio
Coachella Fire Protection District
The others are departments that no longer exist, but are in other local counties. I see a trend.
I am sure that if you talked to former members of the above agencies, they would say that their careers were improved after being absorbed into the county/Cal-Fire system. Although Cal-Fire works a 72 hour schedule, the isolation from local politics, security of working in a larger agency and the opportunity for overtime has overridden the longer work-week. I am sure that some did not make the transition well however.
While I believe that the citizens of Norco will receive a similar or maybe higher level of service with the change, I still think the loss of history and culture when an agency is dissolved is lamentable.
What I think is irrelevant, time marches on and things change. I wish my brothers in Norco well and remind them that though schedules and station assignments change, it still beats hot-mopping roofs or pouring mud in Palm Desert.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. As the county is buying Norco's two front-line engines, I know that it is only a matter of time before that white Salisbury in the top photo becomes all red. I'll miss seeing that too.