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Bill Niccum: Fire official: Department handled call correctly

Posted: May 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.

On Friday, Santa Clarita firefighters responded to a mobile-home fire in Newhall that resulted in the death of a 53-year-old man.

The article that appeared in The Signal on Tuesday, titled “Neighbors tried to put out mobile-home fire,” depicted neighbors reacting to the fire and the tragic loss of life, as well as the Fire Department’s response to the incident.

While Signal reporter Jim Holt did contact Los Angeles County Fire Department public affairs in Los Angeles, there was no attempt to get information from the assistant chief’s office in Newhall or local fire personnel, which would have provided the community with important and accurate details.

My office is always happy to assist, answer questions and provide information related to any incident in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The first engine company to arrive on scene was dispatched to the fire as it was leaving a previous medical emergency near the Newhall fire. Firefighters arrived on scene within five minutes, more quickly than what was originally reported by the Fire Department’s Public Affairs office.

A resident reported that it took “between 14 and 18 minutes” for firefighters to arrive. While we understand it may feel as though time is passing slowly, we pride ourselves on responding quickly.

In total, four engine companies responded, along with a ladder truck, paramedic squad, a fire patrol and a battalion chief. All resources were dispatched simultaneously, and all resources were on scene within minutes, actively fighting the blaze.

According to Holt’s article, a resident on scene reported neighbors were attempting to fight the blaze with garden hoses, commenting water pressure was inadequate and saying, “With the amount of money they collect from us, we want something for our dollar when it comes to safety.”

Firefighters access water from fire hydrants, which provide water and pressure from a separate system than a residential garden hose. The pressure from this system was more than adequate to fight the blaze and, in fact, a captain on scene reported water pressure was reduced in order to ensure the safety of firefighters handling the hose lines.

Investigators from the Sheriff’s Arson and Explosives Detail reported there was no evidence of a working smoke detector, saying, “There may have been one, but we did not find it.”

Every year, more than 3,000 people die in house fires in the United States, most of whom are in homes without a working smoke detector. Installing smoke detectors is the single most important fire-safety step you can take to protect your family and your home.

In November of 2010, firefighters visited mobile-home parks throughout the Santa Clarita Valley as part of a communitywide outreach program to remind residents to change their batteries, and they distributed safety literature.

Firefighters train hard and put their own lives at risk when fighting a blaze, and when a home is destroyed — and especially when a life is lost — the firefighting community rallies alongside the larger community to show support.

It is the mission of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and my personal commitment to the residents of Santa Clarita, to provide the highest level of fire safety and emergency medical services possible.

I invite our residents to visit their local fire station or visit the Fire Department website to find out what steps you can take to avoid a fire in your home.

Bill Niccum is the Los Angeles County assistant fire chief.


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