Note: The following timeline is in chronological order so that the most recent milestones and key actions are at the bottom of the list.
To better understand the community’s options for fire protection and emergency medical services, the City requested an initial proposal from LA County Fire.
With an increasing number of individuals electing to pursue employment with LA County Fire and other similar agencies, maintaining LVFD staffing levels has been challenging despite recruitment efforts. Staffing shortages ultimately resulted in the closure of Station 3 in January 2020. However, it is important to note that, since then, Station 3 area paramedic and ambulance transport services have been covered by a contract with CARE ambulance while the City works to fill the two firefighter/paramedic positions that will enable Station 3 to reopen.
Station 3 was originally opened in 2007 and staffed with two employees classified as firefighters/paramedics. There was a time when the USDA Forest Service rented space and housed one of the Forest Service's wildland fire engines and a crew at the station. But, that ended in 2013. The City's reserve fire apparatus are also periodically stored there, but there has never been a fully-staffed fire engine at Station 3.
LA County Fire delivered its initial proposal and report to the City. At that time, the City engaged the services of Messina and Associates to evaluate the proposal and simultaneously conduct an analysis of the City's current fire operations.
August 25, 2020
The Council received a presentation on and discussed Messina and Associates’ City of La Verne Fire Department Service Deployment Review (see below for additional information). The report’s findings concluded:
If the city decides to continue the LVFD a comprehensive plan should be developed to address the current challenges, to include hiring a fire chief with the appropriate skillset and supporting the chief’s efforts over the long-term.
Additionally, should the council decide to continue providing service through the LVFD it would be beneficial for the City and the LVFD to engage in a detailed review of the entirety of its operations as well as the community risk profile. This type of comprehensive review is contained in a SOC/CRA and also comes with an associated cost based on the level of detailed desired. Any serious attempt at re-organization will likely be met with skepticism from the suppression staff and until the organization is able to rebuild the trust lost and regain its positive culture, it is highly unlikely that the LVFD will ever be able to function beyond its current state.
(Page 43, City of La Verne Fire Department Service Deployment Review)
Based on these findings and understanding the significance of this matter to the community, the Council committed to:
- Finding the best fire service delivery model possible to satisfy both the needs and interests of the La Verne community, while also acknowledging that no solution will be perfect.
- Exploring additional fire service delivery models beyond what is covered in the Review, including reaching out to LA County Fire on the feasibility of creating a hybrid service model that leverages the strengths that both LVFD and LA County Fire have to offer.
- Engaging with LVFD firefighters and the La Verne Firefighters’ Association to gain an understanding of their position on the matter and establish a collaborative path forward.
November 2, 2020
After a month-long public feedback period from the community on the findings of the report, over 120 comments were received, which were presented to the Council at their meeting on November 2, 2020. Also included in this report was an update on the research conducted on additional potential alternative service models with LA County Fire. Based on this information and the feedback received, the Council directed City staff to focus their efforts on working with LA County Fire to provide the City with fire services contract terms for review and consideration, as well as to conduct a detailed analysis of La Verne's current resources to determine the costs of conversion facilities and equipment. At that time, the Council also decided to postpone the implementation of any of the Review recommendations until the discussion with the County had been completed.
February 16, 2021
The City Council decided to not commit to any one service model until LA County Fire provides additional information for review and consideration. The Council also determined that, if LA County’s fire services contract terms are favorable, the decision to move forward with these services will need to be ratified by La Verne voters during the June 2022 election before being finalized. Click here to access the February 16, 2021 meeting recording.
Considering final determination would be over a year away, the city restarted its recruitment efforts for fire chief.
May 17, 2021
During the La Verne City Council’s preliminary budget study session, the Mayor requested that the Council program between $1.2 and $1.5 million from the City’s reserve funds to expand La Verne Fire Department (LVFD) staffing to bring a third paramedic engine into service (learn more).
While there was no support to move forward with the Mayor’s proposal, the rest of the Council took the following actions to provide an opportunity for more strategic decision-making that will ultimately support the La Verne community’s long-term fire and emergency services needs.
Council directed Staff to:
- Include funds in the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget to pursue a Standards of Response Coverage (SOC) report, which takes a comprehensive look at all aspects of an agency’s fire service and medical response capabilities and makes specific recommendations on how to best utilize resources to meet actual community needs across all aspects of the organization. This was previously recommended by Messina and Associates in their Review.
- Maintain plans to reopen LVFD Fire Station 3 on Esperanza Drive with paramedic and ambulance transport services, which continues to be included in the City’s annual budget. Station 3 initially closed in 2020 due to a lack of staffing and, since then, the City has been in a state of constant recruitment to hire two firefighter paramedics needed to staff the station. Once those assignments have been filled, Station 3 will reopen immediately to provide paramedic and ambulance transport services to the La Verne community.
- Complete recruitment for and selection of a permanent fire chief. Interviews for a new fire chief have already begun and it is expected that the findings of the SOC should be available at the same time the City is appointing its permanent fire chief, which will be a valuable tool for the chief in determining how to move forward.
During this time, Council also acknowledged the need to find a sustainable funding source. The Mayor’s suggestion to utilize one-time funds, like reserves, to fund ongoing operations could put the City at future financial risk. If reserve funds were to be depleted, the City could be put into a position where it is unable to provide services during challenging times like the coronavirus pandemic.
July 6, 2021
During their regular meeting, the City Council unanimously voted to authorize the execution of an agreement with AP Triton to provide a Standards of Cover and Community Risk Analysis (SOC/CRA) on the City’s fire and emergency medical services. This comprehensive study will provide essential data and insights that will assist City leaders in determining the next steps for the La Verne Fire Department.
After an approximate 5-month process, the SOC/CRA will provide three main takeaways. Firstly, it will evaluate LVFD’s current effectiveness as measured against industry standards and best practices. Second, every area of the city, from buildings to open spaces, will be examined to determine all potential hazards and associated levels of risk to better understand the community’s needs. And lastly, it will take into account the current condition of all aspects of the LVFD – including policies, equipment, staffing, and even communication practices – to make detailed and actionable recommendations to improve service delivery and increase the department's effectiveness.
August 16, 2021
The La Verne City Council approved Christopher Nigg as the new Fire Chief of the La Verne Fire Department, ending the over two-year hiatus of a permanent Fire Chief leading the department. Nigg’s start date began at the end of August 2021.
November 8, 2021
The La Verne City Council held an adjourned session to hear a presentation from Fire Chief Christopher Nigg. Chief Nigg provided an overview of his assessments on the various aspects of the Fire Department’s operations as well as recommendations for improvements throughout the Department (learn more). With overwhelmingly positive reactions to Chief Nigg’s proposal from the La Verne City Council, La Verne Firefighters Association, and community members, the Chief will come back to Council with his specific authorization requests in order to implement the plan.