Reach Air Medical In Upland At The Right Time To Advance With County Fire Merger

Reach Air Medical Services, an inadvertent beneficiary of the county’s assumption of fire protection service in Upland last year, saw its advantage extended yet further this week.
In 2009, following extensive discussions with the City of Upland, Reach Air Medical Services entered into a public/private partnership with the Upland Fire Department to open an operational base at Cable Airport in Upland in 2010 to provide 24 hour per day/7-days-a-week emergency helicopter service to Upland and the surrounding San Bernardino County area.
The Upland Fire Department’s contribution to the joint effort was to provide a flight nurse and flight paramedic on a helicopter owned by Reach and operated by a Reach-employed pilot, such that the airship was constantly available to provide emergency air medical transportation to the citizens of Upland and its automatic aid/mutual aid partners.
That partnership remained intact over the ensuing years, during which there were six amendments to the original contract. In 2014, Upland merged its fire department administration with the Montclair Fire Department and Reach extended its service area to Montclair. In 2016, the administration-sharing arrangement between the two cities ended. Later that year, Upland undertook to explore the concept of shuttering its municipal fire department and arranging to have the county fire department absorb the city department under the auspices of what the county refers to as the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District. In 2017, after the city council signed off on doing so, the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission took up the proposal and approved it. That included annexing the entirety of the Upland City Limits into a county fire service assessment district and imposing on each of the city’s parcel owners a $157 per year assessment along with turning over to the county in perpetuity 54 percent of the property tax collected in the city to pay the county for providing the city with fire protection service.
According to San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig, “Under the Local Agency Formation Commission’s terms and conditions of the Upland annexation that occurred in July 2017, the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District assumed the contract with Reach. According to the Local Agency Formation Commission approval, the end of the term of the Reach contract through the Upland annexation was June 30, 2018. Subsequent to the annexation, this public-private partnership has continued. As part of the annexation, the contract’s scope was expanded to include all areas within San Bernardino County Fire Protection District jurisdiction. The partnership has been a vital resource for Upland and now the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District. Under the partnership, Reach provides/operates/maintains the helicopter, bills the customers, and reimburses the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District for the cost incurred by San Bernardino County Fire Protection District to staff the helicopter with a nurse and paramedic.”
The agreement with Reach has previously been amended eight times. Upland approved six amendments from 2009 to 2017. The Reach contract has been amended two times since the annexation: once by the fire chief pursuant to board of directors authorization in connection with the annexation on July 11, 2017, and once by the fire chief executed in June 2018, extending the contract term to December 31, 2018. The amendment approved by the board of supervisors on Tuesday extends the term of the agreement through June 30, 2019, which will provide additional time for the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District to negotiate a new agreement with Reach for future services or explore any other available options.
“The amendment allows the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District to receive compensation from Reach through the end of the fiscal year,” said Hartwig. “The San Bernardino County Fire Protection District will continue to be fully compensated for staffing costs and management of the program regardless of the number of flights or the amount of billing revenue received by Reach.”
According to Hartwig, “Reach is a provider of air medical transports for critically ill and injured patients. Reach is fully accredited and regulatorily compliant with the Federal Aviation Administration. The lack of reliable air resources for emergency scene response has been an identified weakness in San Bernardino County for decades. A dedicated air resource for emergency scene incidents within the county has been a goal of the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District. Due to the county’s geography and size, one of the challenges the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District faces is providing adequate emergency medical services. There are areas of the county, including transportation corridors, that are more than an hour away from ground resources. Another challenge is the ability to quickly access the regional specialty centers including trauma, cardiac, stroke and pediatric centers. Extending this contract with Reach will allow the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District to continue to address the listed challenges while a new contract or provider for these services is investigated. Since the Upland annexation in July 2017, the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District has moved this resource, the helicopter, to a location in the Victorville area where it can best serve public needs, especially in the distant parts of the county. The agreement with Reach requires that the air resource be dedicated to emergency calls to ensure availability. The San Bernardino County Fire Protection District will continue to explore the best way to deploy this type of resource.”
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply