The Big Bear City and Big Bear Lake Fire Departments are on a track to not only save money, but combine services to the benefit of the citizens in both jurisdictions. The Big Bear City Community Services District Board of Directors and the City of Big Bear Lake Fire Protection Board are continuing to meet bi-monthly and work together for a full consolidation of fire departments, currently named “Big Bear Fire Department.” Jeff Willis is Fire Chief for the Big Bear City Fire Department, Big Bear Lake Fire Protection District, and the combining Big Bear Fire Authority. Chief Willis states, "The main goal is to achieve 100% accurate responses.” This means sending the right resources to the right location.
He further states, “One of the first achievements was to eliminate repetitive responses by sending the closest unit and most appropriate unit to an emergency incident.” Additionally, there is an ambulance and paramedic crew at each staffed station: Big Bear City, Big Bear Lake, and the Sugarloaf Fire Station. All of this interchange ability of staff and equipment provides a better, more efficient service to the residents and visitors to Big Bear Valley.
Some Big Bear City residents may have noticed that the business office at the Big Bear City Fire Station closed in December 2011. This action occurred based on employee attrition and the combining of services. A savings of approximately $250,000 was realized, not only with the employee attrition but by eliminating four phone/fax lines, consolidating purchases, supplies, etc.
Other cost saving measures include vehicle consolidation and replacement schedules. By reducing and sharing equipment, the schedules have been adjusted saving both departments a considerable amount of capital expenditure funding. As of July 1, 2013, further budget integration between the two departments has been accomplished.
When it comes to the staff, Chief Willis is sensitive to the fact that change can be uncomfortable for some. Chief Willis, with Assistant Chief Mike Maltby at his side, provides sufficient information to the labor groups that can help them to move to the future. The Chiefs and labor groups are working to align the labor contracts.
The State of California approved a new Fire Department designator number for Big Bear Fire Department. The public can see Big Bear Fire Department as an agency designator placed on fire apparatus and other equipment representing the consolidated agency as further sharing of equipment continues to develop.
The public was asked to help design a new patch and a contest was publicized throughout the local media and schools. About a dozen patch designs were received. Not one design was chosen, but ideas from all of the submissions were used. A draft design was presented at the December 11, 2012 meeting to the Big Bear Fire Authority Board. It was the goal to show unity that represents both agencies. The final and approved patch can now be seen on this website as well as all of the uniforms of Big Bear Fire Department employees.