An Unnecessary Death?

At the December 18 court hearing for the San Antonio Heights Homeowners Association’s lawsuit against the City of Upland, the County of San Bernardino and its various agencies in which San Antonio Heights residents and landowners are contesting being forced along with Upland’s residents into a county fire service zone originally formed for the 47-miles distant community of Helendale, Judge David Cohn suggested the plaintiffs were simply stingy penny-pinchers who didn’t want to pay the $156 per year assessment that was being imposed on them to defray the cost of fire protection the county was providing them. For many if not all of those residents, Judge Cohn was missing the point. The issue for them is not one of dollars and cents but rather of life and death, of public safety.
Previously, San Antonio Heights had its own fire station located at the entrance to that community at the top of Euclid Avenue, from which firefighters and paramedics were dispatched not exclusively but in the main to incidents in that foothill community. Personnel there were very familiar with the lay of the land in San Antonio Heights, which features a series of intricately winding roads and streets, as well as ten either full, half or three quarter arcing thoroughfares with overlapping and therefore confusing names that defy easy navigation for the uninitiated and can leave the traveler disoriented. These include North Mountain Avenue/Mesa Terrace; Euclid Avenue/San Antonio Crescent; San Antonio Crescent/Bellview Road/Vista Drive; Euclid Crescent East/Prospect Drive; Euclid Crescent East/Cliff Road/Prospect Road/Highland Road: Highland Road/Prospect Drive/Bellview Road; Bellview Road/Euclid Crescent East; Euclid Avenue/Vista Drive; Vista Drive/Sierra Drive/Sierra Crescent East; and Park Boulevard.
After the merger involving the San Antonio Heights Fire station, the now-defunct Upland Fire Department and the county fire division from the Mojave Desert last year, there were reassignments of fire crews that brought firefighting personnel unfamiliar with San Antonio Heights to the San Antonio Heights Fire Station while sending those firefighters who had long worked at the San Antonio Heights station elsewhere. In addition, the fire crew at the San Antonio Heights Fire Station was thereafter routinely dispatched to emergencies elsewhere in Upland. On such occasions, with the San Antonio Heights-based crew engaged many miles below, if an emergency arose in San Antonio Heights, a crew from another county fire station would be dispatched, entailing extra traveling time and requiring that these responders find their way to a destination in a labyrinthine territory with which they were unfamiliar.
Just such a series of unfortunate factors converged last September 8 when a family member found an 89-year-old woman in extreme distress in the small cottage she lived in on the grounds of a larger residential property in the 2300 block of Park Boulevard in San Antonio Heights. That family member retrieved a second family member, a medical professional residing on the immediately adjacent property. The second family family member sought to administer to the woman and gave instructions for a 911 call to be made, which went out at 1:05 p.m., giving the dispatch center the precise address. Within five minutes, the first family member went out to Park Boulevard to wait for the arrival of the emergency personnel. After several minutes, when no sirens or horns signaling the approach of an ambulance or firetruck were heard, the first family member again called 911. A third 911 call was made at 1:20 p.m. At one point shortly thereafter, sirens accompanied by horn bellows could be heard but then ceased. After further delay, the sirens and horn were heard once again and a fire truck, accompanied by an ambulance, arrived at 1:35 p.m. Two ambulance attendants rolled a gurney back to the cottage. As the 89-year-old woman was being helped into the gurney, she went unconscious. She was loaded into the ambulance and taken to San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland. She was pronounced dead there at 2:01 p.m.
-Mark Gutglueck

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