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.

 

 

Congratulations to Chief Greg McKeown on His Retirement! Wishing Chief McKeown and His Family All the Best in the Future!

Congratulations to Orange County Fire Authority Division 2 Chief Greg McKeown on your retirement.

He will be greatly missed.

Chief McKeown is a life-long resident of Orange County who started his career with the Orange County Fire Authority in 1989. Serving the OCFA for nearly thirty years, Chief McKeown has held many positions within the fire service.

Moving up through the ranks, he has held the position of Firefighter, Paramedic, Fire Captain, Battalion Chief, and Division Chief. Chief McKeown’s most recent position has been leading Division 2, serving the City of Irvine and John Wayne Airport.

Chief McKeown has been very active in the ensuring the safety of our Irvine community, serving as the city’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) representative and instructor; as well as coordinating a comprehensive drowning prevention plan.

I will miss Chief McKeown’s day-to-day leadership and I am grateful for his decades of service, especially his stalwart leadership of Orange County Fire Authority Division 2.

During the worst fires in our region, I knew that our fire service was under the leadership of the best of the best.

From myself, the residents of Irvine, and all of us in Orange County, I wish Chief McKeown and his family all in best in the future!

Join Me on Saturday, October 13, at the Orange County Fire Station Open House!

Come meet your local Irvine Orange County Firefighters!

On Saturday, October 13, OCFA’s Fire Station Open House will give visitors an opportunity to meet and greet their neighborhood firefighters, tour their local fire stations, and learn about ways they can stay fire safe.

It will also be a great opportunity to thank your firefighters for their everyday heroism and tell them that you appreciate their bravery and professionalism.

The OCFA Fire Stations in Irvine participating in the Open House on Saturday, October 13, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. are:

  • Station 4, 2 California Ave., Irvine CA 92612
  • Station 26, 4691 Walnut Ave., Irvine CA 92604
  • Station 27, 12400 Portola Springs, Irvine CA 92618
  • Station 36, 301 East Yale Loop, Irvine CA 92604

See you there!

P.S. Did you know that every OCFA Fire Station has a special nickname? When you visit, ask them the nickname of the Fire Station and why it’s called that name

Join Me at the Orange County Fire Open Houses!

Come meet your local Orange County Firefighters!

OCFA’s station Open Houses will give visitors an opportunity to meet and greet their neighborhood firefighters, tour their local fire stations, ride a fire engine, see fire suppression techniques, see rescue dogs in action, and learn about ways they can stay fire safe.

It will also be a great opportunity to thank your firefighters for their everyday heroism and tell them that you appreciate their bravery and professionalism in containing recent fires, such as the Holy Jim Fire!

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris and Councilmember Melissa Fox at OCFA Open House.

This year, the Orange County Fire Authority will host two Open House events:

  • Saturday, October 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at OCFA Headquarters, and
  • Saturday, October 13, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m, at participating OCFA stations.

OCFA Headquarters is located at  s located at 1 Fire Authority Road, Irvine, CA 92602 (off Jamboree Road).

The event schedule for the OCFA HQ Open House on Saturday, October 6, includes:

  • 11:00 a.m. — Kidde Fire Extinguisher Demonstration, Burn Demonstration.
  • 11:45 a.m. — Urban Search and Rescue, Dog Demonstration.
  • 12:30 p.m. — Vehicle Extraction Demonstration.
  • 1:15 p.m.  — Urban Search and Rescue, Dog Demonstration.
  • 2:00 p.m. — Burn Demonstration.

The OCFA stations in Irvine participating in the Open House on Saturday, October 13, are:

  • Station 4, 2 California Ave., Irvine CA 92612
  • Station 26, 4691 Walnut Ave., Irvine CA 92604
  • Station 27, 12400 Portola Springs, Irvine CA 92618
  • Station 36, 301 East Yale Loop, Irvine CA 92604

See you there!

Visit the California Fire Museum Exhibit

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox, Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris and Dottie the Fire Dog atop a 1902 horse-drawn steam engine.

This past weekend, I paid a visit to the California Fire Museum‘s new exhibition of firefighting equipment and artifacts in Santa Ana.

The exhibit — entitled “Firefighting: Artifacts and Tools of the Trade” —  runs from February 3 to March 3, 2018, at the SAC Arts Gallery at the Santora Building, 207 North Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701.

This is a wonderful exhibit.  The success of this exhibit re-enforces my commitment to convince the Irvine City Council to agree to the Fire Museum’s request for help in preserving their collection from damage from vandalism and the elements by preserving the heritage of our California firefighters at the Great Park.

The California Fire Museum , Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization whose purpose is:

  • To preserve and protect the history and heritage of the fire service in general, with special emphasis on the California Fire Services.
  • To collect, restore, preserve and exhibit apparatus, equipment, art and artifacts of the firefighting profession.
    To provide life safety, fire safety and fire prevention education to the community.
  • To educate the public about firefighters, firefighting and emergency services.
  • We are dedicated to conservation, research, restoration, education and community service.

If you would like to become a member, sponsor, or have a donation of fire memorabilia, funds or services, please contact the California Fire Museum at (949) 916-5019.

As a Board Member of the Orange County Fire Authority and the mother of a firefighter, I urge everyone interested in preserving our California firefighter heritage to contact Irvine’s Mayor and the members of the City Council to tell them to provide the California Fire Museum space for the public display and storage of their irreplaceable collection.