Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Firefighters, equipment gather at Chino Airport for rapid response
By Lori Consalvo
The Ontario (CA) Daily Bulletin
CHINO – A mobilization center for firefighters and equipment to be ready to battle fires in all Southern California counties has been established at Chino Airport. Crews started setting up Saturday night so firefighters would have a central place to eat, sleep and be reassigned before heading out to the next fire. “I have horror stories of firefighters not eating for two days and going even longer without sleep,” said Rocky Opliger, incident commander for California Interagency Incident Management Team No. 4. “This (station) is to get them well-rested.”
The team was assigned to establish and manage the center, which offers a secure area to track firefighters and make them available for duty, assess equipment and brief out-of-state firefighters on fires and drought conditions in Southern California.
In addition to local firefighters, 12 states were represented in the mobilization center on the first night of operations.
By Monday, there were 400 firefighters and 120 pieces of equipment at the center, and San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt said there is room for many more if needed.
“This is a necessity to do all we can to step up, not only in San Bernardino, but also Orange County, Riverside, San Diego, and Los Angeles County,” Ovitt said.
This is the first time Chino Airport has been used for a relief station for firefighters and equipment, Opliger said. The center provides basics like beds, food, medical care and a laundry; mail and newspaper delivery; opportunities for training; and an entertainment center.
Firefighting crews and equipment will continue to be based at the airport through the weekend in case predicted Santa Ana winds send fires out of control again.
James Jenkins, assistant director for the county Department of Airports, said there will not necessarily be any financial effect for the airport.
Chino was chosen based on its central location, which allows workers to move quickly to fires in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange or San Diego counties.
“The airport has more than a single mission within the county structure,” Jenkins said.