March 2, 2020 – In 2019 your Penn Valley Fire Department responded to 1,652 calls, a 10% increase over the previous year, and the highest annual call volume on record. The call volume has been increasing steadily for many years. In fact, in 2005, when the current staffing level was established, the call volume was 1,017.

Thus the 2019 level constitutes a 62.4% increase over the 2005 volume. Additionally, the frequency of multiple calls in an hour, typically two, but on occasion three, is also increasing.

The Penn Valley Fire Protection District (PVFPD) encompasses 92 square miles, and serves a population of over 15,000 residents. The District staffs two stations: at the Lake Wildwood South Entrance, and at the main station on Spenceville Road. Each station is staffed with one Captain, one Lieutenant, and one firefighter/EMT or firefighter/Paramedic. Additionally the Fire Chief, or a designated duty officer, is on duty at the main station.

We are currently the only fire agency in Western Nevada County providing Advanced Life Support (ALS) as well as ambulance transportation. Therefore, three quarters of the district staff members are licensed paramedics. This is a very positive feature for anyone in need of emergency medical attention. But there is a downside. An increasing number of patients require ambulance transport to specialty care hospitals such as Cardiac centers, stroke centers, trauma or burn centers or pediatric care. In 2005 most of our ambulance transports were to Sierra Nevada Hospital. The specialty care centers are located in Marysville, Roseville or Sacramento, changing transport times from 15 minutes, to 45 minutes, to an hour. Once there the ambulance team must wait with the patient until the hospital can admit them. The “wall time” can range from a few minutes to hours. Then the firefighter/Paramedics have the commute time back to the station. The end result is that half of our daily on duty staff are unavailable for three to four hours as is one of the fire engines (due to no staffing), in the event of another medical or fire call.

David Farrell is a board member of Penn Valley Fire Protection District.