Fire Chief John Hawkins' Message
I am always honored to introduce myself as the CAL FIRE Riverside Unit/Riverside County Fire Chief, and to write about our fine fire department, and our wonderful, hardworking personnel. It is easy to write good things about good organizations and our fine, firefighting and support people. Within this message that I am proud to provide you, will be considerable detail on what and how we do our job to best serve you. I always reflect on the 'D' and 'E' words: Out constituents Deserve and Expect the best from us, nothing less. We will climb that ladder of excellence to meet the deserve an expect measurements. We hope this message enlightens your understanding of our services: Fire Protection, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Technical Rescue, and Hazardous Materials Response.
We must maintain an operationally competent fire department that is also cost effective. To that end, we always are analyzing our operations with an eye to new, innovative ways to best serve you at the lowest possible cost. Public safety services are expensive. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors and our partner City Councils put the highest priority on public safety and have ensured we are funded to best serve you.
The CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department is well established as a strong integrated, cooperative, regional fire protection system. Our system is strong because of the additive organizational elements provided by the State, County, partner cities, and community services district. Many "large-fire after-action reports" have recommended an integrated system such as ours however; few other areas enjoy such a robust system. In recognition of our system, we are very proud of the support provided by all our elected and appointed officials. As the citizens that we are lucky enough to serve, you are the benefactors of their support.
Across the 7,206 square miles of Riverside County, we serve you from 92 fire stations; including 2 volunteer fire stations; for a total of 94 fire stations. Our response actions constitute full service, municipal and wildland fire protection, pre-hospital emergency medical response by paramedics and EMT's, technical rescue services and response to hazardous materials discharges. About 82% of the 440 to 500 daily emergency incidents are medical emergencies, and about 10% are fires. The other 8% of incidents include technical rescues, public service assistance (6%) and hazardous materials incidents (2%).
Firefighting is dangerous work. It doesn't matter whether we are going in the front door of a burning house in the middle of the night when the residents might be sleeping and not know a fire exists. Or, when we are attacking a wildland fire that is already burning in the backyard of 15 homes, and might soon ignite all 15 residents. Or, when we respond to a freeway traffic collision with 6 vehicles involved and 10 seriously injured victims, while cars pass the accident scene not slowing and going 80 mph or similar such, regularly occurring emergencies. Our firefighters want to go home to their families on their off-duty time; we want them to safely go home. We also want them to have as safe a work environment at emergency scenes as possible. Please drive carefully when you are near emergencies where our firefighters are working. Again, firefighting is dangerous work. Please understand we always will do our best to help you.
The CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department embraces Five Core Values. They are: (1) Leadership, (2) Competence, (3) Integrity, (4) Safety, and (5) Customer Service. I expect our firefighters and support staff members to be leaders with all they do, every day. They must be competent; passing a written or skills examination at the minimum passing level, let's say 80%, is not good enough. When dad or mom is on the floor in need of pre-hospital medical care, they Deserve and Expect the best. From an integrity of honesty standpoint, the same high level of competence must happen. The fourth Amendment of our Constitution prevents unlawful entry into someone's private residence. We can force entry and check the victim because of the emergent nature of a medical problem. Such an entry into someone's house is a huge liberty. We will live integrity. Our job is dangerous, one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Our firefighters must safely work. I tell them in simple terms, "Don't get hurt." Lastly, customer service is critical both internal to the fire department and external to our constituents. Again, a simple reminder to members goes, "Be nice."
The following statement of economic responsibility stands the same today as it has stood for the last 11 years that I have served as your Fire Chief. During these trying economic times the Fire Department faces many challenges. Revenues do not even closely match needed expenditures, while the call for emergency response has dramatically increased. Public expectations rightfully remain high for prompt and effective response to emergencies. Our elected and appointed officials support maintaining high levels of public safety response capability. We are committed to keeping fire stations open and retaining our fire company staffing levels to best serve the public.
Earthquakes, fires, storms and pandemic illnesses present the greatest risk to Riverside County residents. As such, we work very closely with all government agencies; particularly the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and the County Emergency Management Department (EMD). The public Deserves and Expects the best, nothing less. We will always unify command for emergency strategic and tactical planning and operational execution. Please stay attuned to information provided by the Riverside County EMD and be prepared for the impacts we could face from a catastrophic earthquake or other emergency. The Golden Guardian 2008 earthquake scenario for a Magnitude 737 earthquake along the San Andreas Fault predicted major disruption to our transportation corridors, building collapses, and many damaging fires. A major earthquake could displace Interstate 10 thirty-five (35) feet, sever water lines or canals, sever under and above ground electrical transmission and distribution lines, and disrupt our communication system. Are you prepared not to live the expected "California life style" for a week, two weeks, or even six weeks? Do you have adequate back-up water supplies, food, medications, or any of the other supplies you may need? I hope every Southern California resident seriously considers the potential consequences and prepares for a catastrophic event. The experts state that it is not a matter of if, but a genuine matter of when the destructive event will occur. Please get ready; the readiness choice is yours!
Our fire stations are always open to your visit. In fact, we encourage you to visit us. We want you to visit your neighborhood station and meet your local firefighters. Every day our firefighters amaze me with their operational competence and commitment to excellence. I am also amazed by all our support personnel without whom, response by our front-line firefighters would be nearly impossible.
Thank you very much for viewing our website. As I frequently close with our firefighters - take care, be safe, have fun, and live the California dream.
- John R. Hawkins, Fire Chief