San Diego

North County Fire District Expands Emergency Services But Lags Behind in Maintenance

NCFD said it has seen a 17 percent increase in calls since Fallbrook Hospital shut its doors

The North County Fire Protection District has taken on a much heavier load of emergency calls following the closure of Fallbrook Hospital in 2015.

In response, NCFD added an extra ambulance to respond to medical emergencies, but it has put a financial strain on the fire stations. 

As the NCFD puts it, they are bringing a hospital to the home of patients.

“We have the ability to bring medications, life-saving medications to them in their time of need,” NCFD spokesman John Choi said.

The district serves approximately 55,000 people in Fallbrook, Bonsall and Rainbow. 

When NCFD started operating its third ambulance, there was no extra money in the budget for it. Most of its budget comes from property taxes.

NCFD said it has seen a 17 percent increase in calls since Fallbrook Hospital shut its doors. That also means that ambulances are having to travel further to transport patients.

“Our general public has not seen the true impact of a hospital closure because we’ve been providing this emergency service," Choi said. "But for us internally, we’ve had to move around money.” 

Because NCFD has shifted money, it hasn't been able to make the necessary upgrades to its fire stations.

Some NCFD buildings are not up to California Earthquake Standards, meaning that some of the fire station doors might not open during a large earthquake.

Choi said seven facilities are "end-of-life" and four of those are over 50 years old.

Even though crews are on the road longer, and working in outdated facilities, the NCFD remains dedicated to responding to their community’s needs, the agency said.

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