The Big Bear Fire Department is currently working with the Big Bear City Community Services District Board of Directors and the Big Bear Lake Fire Protection Board for full consolidation of both Big Bear City and Big Bear Lake Fire Departments.
This is not the first time this idea has been presented or pursued. Consolidating the two agencies was studied by a consulting firm, Arroyo Seca, in the early 1990's. Then in the late 1990's, a bid process for fire protection services ensued. The San Bernardino County Fire Department and Cal Fire submitted bids to provide services. Both Big Bear City and Big Bear Lake kept their existing services intact through this process.
Big Bear City Fire Department passed Measure F in 1999 to continue providing a full-time, fully staffed Fire Department.
The Big Bear City Fire Department consolidated with the Bear Valley Healthcare District for Paramedic and Ambulance transportation services in the early 2000's.
In 2003, another attempt at consolidating the two agencies occurred. This process lasted almost a year with no results.
Starting in 2011, in an economically driven world, the idea of consolidation resurfaced again. This brings us to 2013 with the consolidation moving full steam ahead. Chief Jeff Willis is at the helm leading the way. He reports to both Boards (10 members) on a bi-monthly basis. The process is deeply entrenched and everyone is on the path working hard to complete the process. Chief Willis states, "We are now making history, coming farther and progressing together like we have never seen before. We are making history together."
Big Bear City Fire Department
Past and Present
By Jeff Willis, Fire Chief
On July 12, 1930, the Big Bear Lake Fire Protection District Board of Commissioners voted to discontinue providing fire response out to the east end of Big Bear Valley. The east end of the valley was primarily made up of a scattering of households surrounding the Woodlands, Peter Pan, and Big Bear Pines Country Clubs. All three Country Clubs were high-end entertainment venues complete with hotel service, dancing, dining, swimming, and a private golf course. Individual lots of land located in close proximity to the clubs were available for purchase. With the purchase of any one lot, the owner was entitled to membership in the club. Beginning July 12, 1930, fundraising amongst club members was sought to purchase a fire engine to service areas near and around the Country Club areas. In 1933, the Peter Pan Country Club burned and subsequently efforts to purchase a fire engine were ramped up. In 1936, a brand new REO fire engine was purchased and Big Bear City Fire Department was born.
From the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s, fire department call boxes were installed at various locations throughout the east end of the valley. During times of emergency, residents would go to the location of a public call box to send a signal that there was a fire. This electronic signal would then activate an air horn that would set off a sequence of horn blasts that identified the location of the call box. At this time Big Bear City Fire Department was comprised of volunteer community members. Upon horn activation, these volunteer members would drop what they were doing and go to the fire station to staff the fire engine. Once a minimum of three volunteer community members had assembled, they would respond on the fire engine to the activated call box. Citizens would wait at the call box to give further information to the responding volunteer fire fighters.
The Big Bear Pines Country Club was the center of activity for the residents of Sugarloaf. The Country Club was located at the intersection of Maple Lane and Eucalyptus. The lodge hall still stands today at this location. The Big Bear Pines Country Club provided a place for social gatherings and recreation. Membership to Big Bear Pines Country Club was obtained with the purchase of individual 25’x100’ lots located within the community of Sugarloaf. As with other areas of Big Bear City, membership to one of the three social clubs proved to be quite popular.
As membership and population grew, so did the need for fire protection. In the mid 1970s, Big Bear City Fire Department built fire station number two, located in the community of Sugarloaf. Once this station was built, it housed a single fire engine and relied on volunteer fire fighters to answer the emergency call.
The early 1980s proved to be challenging as the population grew in the east end of the valley because so did the emergency call volume. It was during the mid 1980s that the Big Bear City Community Services Board of Directors began discussion on how to provide full time fire department staffing. Emergency call volume began to reach a point that was just too much for volunteer fire department members to respond to while at the same time remain employed at their primary job.
In May 1989, the residents and taxpayers voted in a fire prevention and suppression assessment. This provided the revenue necessary to staff Big Bear City Fire Department full-time with four firefighters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This assessment was passed with a sunset clause to expire in June 1999.
In June 1992, Big Bear City was hit with a magnitude 6.8 earthquake. Many houses were destroyed, including Big Bear City Fire Department Station Two, located in the community of Sugarloaf. It was 1995 when Station Two was rebuilt and placed back in service. It was during this same period of time that the Big Bear City Community Service District Board of Directors chose to begin staffing Station Two with two firefighters 365 days a year. This was in response to a growing community and increased emergency call volume.
The late 1990s proved to be a time of growth for Big Bear City Fire Department. It was during this period of time that Big Bear City Fire Department assumed the operation of Bear Valley Paramedic Service. This was made possible with cooperative agreements between Big Bear City Fire Department and Bear Valley Community Healthcare District.
In June 1999, the residents and taxpayers reaffirmed the Fire Prevention and Suppression assessment by approving Measure F, the tax that was initiated in 1989. This provided the funding needed to continue service. In 2010, Big Bear City Fire Department had 27 full time employees and 15 paid call fire fighters. The men and women of Big Bear City Fire Department proudly respond to more than 3000 calls for service a year. The Fire Service of today is a comprehensive network of individual fire departments joined together by automatic and mutual aid agreements with a common goal of responding to, and mitigating or limiting, the impact of every incident large or small.
301 W. Big Bear Blvd.
Big Bear City, CA 92314
550 N. Maple Ln.
Sugarloaf, CA 92386