Join Orange County Fire Authority Girls Empowerment Camp Summer 2019!

As a Board Member of the Orange County Fire Authority, I am proud to help promote OCFA’s Girls Empowerment Camp!

Girls Empowerment Camp is a free two-day camp open to teenagers 14-18 that introduces them to the fire service and provides campers with a realistic, hands-on overview of firefighting.

The camp exposes the teens to all aspects of a fire service career beginning with requirements. The program also empowers campers with life skills and professional guidance that encourages them to pursue a career in public safety. The camp is being held at the Orange County Fire Authority Training Center, located on 1 Fire Authority Road in Irvine.

The free 2-day camp will feature six hands-on stations for the campers to gain familiarity and experience with fire service functions.

The activity stations will include: Ropes and Knots, CPR/First Aid, Aerial Ladder Climb, Confidence Course, Roof Prop and Hose Handling.

Thanks to the generosity of the Orange County Fire Authority Foundation, campers will receive an OCFA/GEC:

  • T-shirt
  • Hat
  • Water bottle
  • Backpack.

The OCFA Foundation will also provide lunch, healthy snacks, and water for the campers.

What: OCFA Girls Empowerment Camp

When: Sat., Jun 29, 2019, 8:00 a.m. through Sun., Jun 30, 2019, 5:00 p.m.

Where: Orange County Fire Authority Headquarters, 1 Fire Authority Rd., D-Bldg, Classroom 4 & Drill Grounds, Irvine, CA 92602

Boys are welcome too!

 

Meet “Captain Cal” — CAL FIRE’s New Ambassador for Fire Safety and Prevention!

I had the opportunity yesterday in Sacramento to attend the introduction of “Captain Cal” — CAL FIRE’s Fire’s new ambassador for fire safety and prevention — to the people of California.

Chief Thom Porter, the Director of California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, announced that Captain Cal’s primary mission is to help expand CAL FIRE’s educational outreach and to teach children about emergency preparedness, fire safety and prevention, safe and sane fireworks, and water safety.

Assemblymember Christy Smith, Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, pointed out that Californians need to be prepared for the “new normal” of a year-round California fire season.

Climate change, couple with population growth, has drastically increased the frequency, severity and destructiveness of wildfires. Ten of the 20 most destructive fires in California history have occurred since 2015.

In 2018 alone, more than 2 million acres of California’s forests burned. The combination of many years of drought followed by recent heavy rains means that we should expect more severe fires again this year.

Under Governor Gavin Newsom and Chief Porter, the State of California is significantly increasing it’s commitment to wildfire prevention and response, as well as education, in the face of these new conditions.

Captain Cal’s motto is “Safety starts with you!”

You can find out more about Captain Cal and fire safety at www.readyforwildfire.org.

 

 

June is PTSD Awareness Month: Tell Your State Legislators to Support PTDS Care for Police and Firefighters!

June is PTSD Awareness Month.

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is a condition that impacts many military veterans and first responders, such as police and firefighters.

PTSD can occur when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.  This condition wasn’t always understood properly by the medical or military community. “Shell shock” and “battle fatigue” or “combat fatigue” were earlier attempts to define and understand the symptoms of PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and those who suffer from it were often maligned and stigmatized in popular culture after the Vietnam War, and many films and television shows featured antagonists or unsympathetic characters suffering from “Vietnam flashbacks” or other post-combat issues.

This misunderstanding of PTSD slowly began to change in 1980 when it was recognized as a specific condition with identifiable symptoms. As a result, since that time Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Today, the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are better understood, treatable, and recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a service-connected condition.

Now we are recognizing that because of the nature of their jobs, police and firefighters, like military combat veterans, are routinely exposed to traumatic events that can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For this reason, police and firefighters are twice as likely as the general population to experience PTSD.

Currently, however, it is often difficult for police and firefighters in California to receive the treatment that they need and deserve.

New legislation — SB 542 — would provide that in the case of certain state and local firefighting personnel and peace officers, the term “injury” also includes a mental health condition or mental disability that results in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress or mental health disorder that develops or manifests itself during a period in which the firefighter or peace officer is in the service of the department or unit.

This new legislation recognizes that “Today, a firefighter’s and law enforcement officer’s occupational stress is heightened in the face of California’s ‘new normal’ in which wildland and wildland-urban interface fires continue to annually increase as hot, dry, and wind-whipped conditions persist” and that “Last year’s fire storms were a brutal reminder of the ferocity of wildfires and how all too often on-duty firefighters and law enforcement officers incur the stress of witnessing victims flee while worrying about whether their own homes, and the safety of their families and neighbors, are threatened. When on duty, firefighters and law enforcement officers endure the added pain of driving through wreckage, seeing destroyed homes, or worse, the skeletal remains of family, friends, and neighbors burned to ash while not being able to stop to provide assistance or comfort.”

The legislation further recognizes that “While the cumulative impacts of these aggressive, deadly events are taking their toll, our firefighters and law enforcement officers continue to stand up to human-caused devastation and nature’s fury, but they are physically and emotionally exhausted” and that “California has a responsibility to ensure that its fire and law enforcement agencies are equipped with the tools necessary to assist their personnel in mitigating the occupational stress experienced as a result of performing their job duties and protecting the public.”

For these reasons, the intent of the legislation to “recogniz[e] the hazards and resulting trauma of these occupations and provide treatment and support for these public servants through presumptive care to our firefighters and law enforcement officers.”

As the daughter of a police officer and the mother of a firefighter, I strongly support SB 542 and it’s goal of providing treatment for police and firefighters suffering from service-related PTSD.

I urge everyone in California to contact their representatives in both the State Senate and the State Assembly to urge them to Vote Yes on SB 542!

Wildfire Preparedness Week: Wildfire is Coming . . . Are You Ready?

As CAL FIRE, reminds us, Wildfire is coming . . . Are you ready?

This is Wildfire Preparedness Week.

Each year California highlights the importance of wildfire prevention and preparedness by declaring the first full week of May as “Wildfire Preparedness Week.”

This year during the week of May 5-11, CAL FIRE, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) and fire departments across the state will remind residents of the dangers posed by wildfires and the simple steps that should be followed to prepare for and prevent them.

Despite getting some much-needed rain this winter, we’re expecting another dangerous fire season.

You can learn more about wildfire prevention at OCFA’s press conference on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. at Station 41, located at Fullerton Airport.  For more information, contact OCFA PIO at 714-357-7782.

One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire!

Approximately 95 percent of all wildfires are sparked by the activity of people, which means that almost all wildfires are preventable.

One of the leading causes of wildfires is outdoor powered equipment. Use powered equipment before 10 a.m. and never on hot and windy days. When clearing dead or dying grass don’t use a lawn mower or weed trimmer with a metal blade.

Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained with nothing dragging on the ground like trailer chains. All residents and vacationers need to be extra cautious outdoors because one less spark means one less wildfire.

Learn more by clicking here

Ready, Set, Go! 

With fire activity already above average, Californians should remember “Ready, Set, Go!

Ready: Protect your home ahead of time by taking steps to mitigate wildfire risk.

Set: Prepare for an emergency by assembling a bag of important items that you would need in the event of emergency. This includes clothes, medication and other personal items. Develop a family emergency plan that details escape routes and reunification plans.

Go: Leave early in the event of an emergency. Avoid traffic congestion and other complications by evacuating at the earliest opportunity. In the event of evacuation, all City of Irvine emergency shelters will have options available for pets.

Learn more by clicking here.

Be Prepared and Take Action!

As climate changes, and as home-building expands ever closer to more areas subject to wildfire, the danger to our lives and property increases.

Watch an OCFA video on wildfire preparedness by clicking here.

Please learn what you should do to help our firefighters keep your family safe!

 

Operation “Southern Wind” — Our First Responders Train for a “Dirty Bomb” Terrorist Attack

This week, as a board member of the Orange County Fire Authority, I had the amazing opportunity to observe the 2019 Urban Search and Rescue Multi-Task Force Mobilization Exercise “Southern Wind” at the Del Valle Regional Training Center in Castaic, California, in which our first responders trained to deal with a “dirty bomb” terrorist attack.

The scenario was that a vehicle containing a “dirty bomb” had exploded, spreading radioactive contamination and toxic smoke across a wide area and demolishing a mall and a hospital, with many fatalities and injured victims, as well as many people trapped in the rubble.

The participating agencies included the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), Cal Trans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Branch, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), California US&R Task Force 5 (CA-TF5) from OCFA, California US&R Task Force 6 (CA-TF6) from the Riverside Fire Department, California US&R Task Force 8 from the San Diego Fire Department, and the HazMat Task Force from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The goal of the exercise was to demonstrate the ability of Southern California-based local, state, and federal US&R Task Forces to meet FEMA Operational Readiness Exercise Evaluation Program requirements, and demonstrate Multi-Task Force cooperation in response to an incident involving a Radiological Dispersal Device.

The overall Incident Commander, and most of the section commanders, were with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Among the actions taken were decontamination and securing of the area, searching for victims (including using search dogs), and extraction of victims from the rubble (including using cranes to lift debris and motor vehicles).

Due to the danger of exposure to radiation, the crews needed to rotate frequently.

My very helpful and patient “guide” during the exercise was OCFA US&R Coordinator Captain Richard Ventura.

Also taking time to keep me informed was OCFA Captain Wendy Norwood, whose normal duty station is OCFA Fire Station 27 in Portola Springs.

I was tremendously impressed by the smoothness and thoroughness of the operation, the coordination and cooperation among the different agencies, the amazing level of skills demonstrated, and the dedication of all the participants.

I was also extremely proud of the leadership role taken by our own Orange County Fire Authority.

Thank you to all our dedicated first responders for continually training to keep us safe!

Here are some more of the photos and videos I took during the exercise:

 

 

 

 

Visiting the California Firefighter Memorial: Honoring Those Who Gave All

I made a visit to the California Firefighter Memorial this afternoon and it deeply touched my heart.

Fire and firefighters are in the news today, as hundreds of brave firefighters risk their lives to battle the flames trying to consume the irreplaceable and magnificent Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

These days, fire and firefighters are often in my thoughts, both as a member of the board of directors of the Orange County Fire Authority and as the mother of a 20-year-old who is studying firefighting at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and serves as an EMT and member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough HazMat Team.

In fact, fire and firefighters should be in all our thoughts, as California’s wild land fire season expands to year-round, and more and more Californians live on the very edge of extreme fire-danger zones.

The truth is, fires in California have become more frequent and more dangerous, and Californians have never relied more on well-trained, well-equipped, well-led and brave firefighters risking all to keep our lives and property safe.

The California Firefighters Memorial is located on the grounds of the California state capitol in Sacramento and honors the more than 1,300 California firefighters who have died in line of duty or of other duty-related illness or injury.

The California Fire Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by California Professional Firefighters, raised the money to construct the Memorial and is responsible for its ongoing upkeep. Ongoing fundraising ensures the continued maintenance of the Memorial with no taxpayer dollars.

The California Firefighters Memorial was unveiled on April 6, 2002, carrying the names of 855 fallen California firefighters. Since the unveiling, more than 400 names have been added at annual Memorial ceremonies.

The Memorial has three components that work together seamlessly:

The Memorial Wall: A two-sided brushed limestone wall on which is inscribed the names of every firefighter who has died in the line of duty since California became a state. The wall is flanked by bronze statues of firefighter “turnouts” – the protective garments worn by firefighters in action

“Fallen Brother”: A bronze statue, directly adjacent to the wall, that honors our fallen heroes. It depicts an anguished firefighter removing a lifeless colleague from the flames. The statue was created by Jesus Romo, a retired Sacramento firefighter

“Holding the Line”: A bronze statue depicting four firefighters in action working a hose line. The statue was created by artist Lawrence Allen Noble.

You can see the names on the Memorial Wall here.

Be sure to visit when you come to Sacramento.

In addition, the California Fire Foundation invites you to join in memorializing the sacrifice and dedication of California’s fallen heroes at the 17th Annual California Firefighters Memorial Ceremony on September 28, 2019, at 11:30 a.m.

Irvine Returns to the Orange County Fire Authority and I am Returning to the OCFA Board of Directors

I want to thank Irvine Mayor Christina Shea and my colleagues on the Irvine City Council for their decision to re-appoint me to the Board of Directors of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA).

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox on the scene of a structure fire in Irvine.

For many years, there has been a dispute between the City of Irvine and OCFA over Irvine’s disproportionately large financial contribution to the fire service.

Because of these concerns, last June, the City of Irvine notified OCFA that it intended to withdraw from the agency in 2020.

In the months that followed, the City of Irvine and OCFA engaged in intensive negotiations with the purpose of finding a way to resolve our differences, particularly the disparity between Irvine’s financial contributions and the services we receive.

Happily, the result of these negotiations was an agreement under which Irvine will receive substantial benefits and considerations in returning to OCFA.

OCFA will contribute $20.5 million to a police-fire training facility in Irvine that will be utilized by the Irvine Police Department and OCFA to meet both separate and joint training needs.

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox with OCFA Fire Chief Brian Fennessy.

Also, OCFA will establish a drone program as part of the agreement that allows monitoring of Irvine’s open space areas with the objective of quickly detecting, assessing, and preventing fires and other hazards.

Significantly, the agreement also includes a pension pay-down, under which OCFA will pay $2 million per year for a total of $22 million over 11 years into an irrevocable pension trust that can be used only for payment of employee pension liability. Approximately 58% of those funds will be earmarked to pay down any portion of OCFA’s unfunded pension liability that is attributed to Irvine.

You can read the full agreement and the Irvine staff report online here.

As Irvine’s representative on the OCFA Board, I am delighted to work again with the dedicated professionals of the Orange County Fire Authority.

I am honored to serve the residents of Irvine and Orange County in this crucial role and pledge to ensure that OCFA continues to provide the very best in fire protection, fire suppression, and emergency services.

In today’s heightened, year-round, wildfire season, having a well-trained, well-equipped and well-led fire service has never been more important.