Victorville Firehouse Built In 2009 Lay Dormant 12 Years While County Provided Service

Fire Station 315, which had lain dormant since it was built a dozen years ago and was relegated to being a relic during the decade while the Victorville Municipal Fire Department had been shuttered in favor of having the San Bernardino County Fire Department provide the High Desert’s largest city with fire protection and emergency response service, has at last been opened, is now occupied by firefighters and is in use.
A combination of factors, including the city’s move to reinitiate in-house fire protection service and city voters’ 19,289 votes or 50.22 percent-to-19,109 or 49.78 percent passage of public safety initiative Measure P in November 2020, resulted in city officials resolving to reopen the fire station.
Symbolically and in a gesture honoring the city’s first fire chief, one day before this year’s Independence Day, on July 3, a two-man crew began quietly operating out of the facility.
At the time of its incorporation in 1962, the City of Victorville was indirectly dependent upon the county fire department, which provided supervision of the team of volunteer on-call firefighters that composed the new city’s fire department, which had existed pre-incorporation in one form or another since 1926. In 1976, the city recruited Rudy Cabriales, a one-time border patrol agent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service who had transitioned to a career as a firefighter in his hometown of Calexico before rising to become the fire chief of Coachella in Riverside County, to relocate to Victorville and become fire chief of an operation morphing from being a county-supervised team of volunteers to a professional department. Cabriales built that organization into what some considered to be the premier fire department in the High Desert, and retired after 21 years as fire chief in 1997. After an unsuccessful try in 1998, Cabriales sought, and won, a berth on the Victorville City Council in 2000.
In 2004, the Hesperia City Council in a highly controversial move closed out its municipal fire department and contracted with the county fire department for fire safety service.
In 2007, the City of Victorville was engaged in a community-wide debate on whether it had adequate financial resources to augment its fire department with the addition of a licensed paramedic on each of the primary fire engines run out of the city’s three fully-staffed fire stations. City officials ultimately erred on the side of fiscal caution and took a leaf out of Hesperia’s book, dissolving the city fire department in favor of contracting with the county fire department, which already had paramedics aboard its engines.
In May 2008, the city council, in a 3-to-2 vote, with Cabriales and then-City Councilwoman JoAnn Almond dissenting, voted to disband the Victorville municipal fire department as of July 1, 2008, and to contract with San Bernardino County and its fire service division for fire protection and emergency medical services.
For Cabriales, that decision was triply painful, eradicating his legacy, surrendering the city’s control of its own public safety fate and consigning into oblivion Fire Station 315, which was at that point in the primary stage of construction and on track for completion the following year. Cabriales considered the creation of Fire Station 315 as one of his primary accomplishments as a member of the city council. He grew bitter that it was not actuated into a functioning firehouse.
In February 2017, with Cabriales no longer one of its members, the city council as it was then composed voted 4-1 to terminate the city’s contract with the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District when that contract was scheduled to end on July 5, 2018, and reestablish the Victorville Municipal Fire Department.
Measure P, which was originally conceived as a way of generating funds to hire more sheriff’s deputies through the city’s contract with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, was placed on the November 2020 ballot not as a specialized tax intended for a specific purpose but rather as a general tax of one additional cent per dollar sales tax for the city. It therefore did not need two-thirds approval. As it turned out, it narrowly passed, yet passed nonetheless. It took effect on April 1, 2021 increasing Victorville’s sales tax rate from 7.75 percent to 8.75 percent.
The city council, advised by its citizens’ oversight committee, in May voted that in addition to using the available Measure P money to up the number of deputies patrolling Victorville’s the streets, it would intensify the life protection efforts of the fire department, which included hiring six new paramedic certified firefighters, three shifts of two each, to serve on a firetruck run out of Fire Station 315, located at 12820 Eucalyptus Street. The station lies within the so-called Golden Triangle formed by the intersection of Bear Valley Road, Highway 395 and the I-15 Freeway, southeast of Duncan Corners and immediately north of the Sunset Ridge District, previously one of the city’s neighborhoods with the longest response times to emergency calls.
-Mark Gutglueck

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