Some recent significant accomplishments of our department include: providing basic life support/emergency medical services beginning in the mid 1980's; developing a hazardous materials response team in 1990; supporting the passage of our City's Fire Sprinkler Ordinance in 1992; creating and administering the Urban Search and Rescue Program since 1993; implementing the automatic external defibrillator program in 1998; evolving to advanced life support/paramedic services on all engines and squads in 2000; and growing to 14 stations by 2007. RFD personnel have continued to respond to the challenges of our own community and places abroad. Our department began a partnership with local community colleges by providing training facilities for the Riverside Community College Fire Academy and Truck Academy and more recently by establishing a preceptor program for students from the Crafton Hills College Paramedic Program. The RFD began donating fire apparatus, equipment, and training to our Sister Cities Cuautla, Morelos, Mexico and Ensenada as early as the 1970's.
The Swift Water Team was sent to Temecula in 1993 and to Sacramento in 1997. In 1994, USAR members assisted with operations at the Northridge Earthquake. On September 11, 2001, USAR CA Task Force 6 was deployed to New York City as one of the first FEMA teams; they assisted on scene there for 10 days. The Swift Water Team and USAR CATF-6 responded to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina in 2005 where the team spent 10 days in a camp assisting in checking the ravaged areas for survivors. Sadly the Riverside City Fire Department experienced its first on-duty death of a firefighter, Eduardo Teran, on November 5, 2005.
In response to the increased threat to public safety as a result of terrorism, natural disasters, and criminal behavior, the RFD is rising to meet the challenges by being proactive in prevention and preparation. Disaster Preparedness, headed by an Emergency Services Coordinator, is now a part of the fire department as of March 2003. This division created a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Program in 2004 with the intent of training community members to be better prepared to respond to emergency situations in their community. The department's Fire/Arson Investigation Task Force has developed into a multi-agency program with the Riverside Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Riverside Fire Department was amongst the first agencies to begin using the Fire F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (Firesetter Regional Intervention Education Network and Delivery System) juvenile intervention program. Since the end of 2004, businesses can file their hazardous materials disclosures/inventories online; this information then becomes immediately available to the hazardous materials team in case of an emergency response. In February 2008, the City of Riverside was included in the Urban Area Security Initiative by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Also Riverside City's first search and rescue dog was certified for deployment in February 2008.
The passing of Measure G by our residents in November 2003, the Fire and Emergency Facilities Bond allowed our department to make station improvements and rebuild fire stations, and build a new Emergency Operations Center and Training Facility. The new Sycamore Canyon, Canyon Crest and Northside Fire Stations opened in June 2007. Emergency Medical Dispatch has been implemented in the Communications Center to improve the quality of information gathered during a 911 medical call and to give post-dispatch instructions to the caller for such situations as child birth, CPR, or severe bleeding.
The Riverside Fire Department has experienced many significant changes since the 1880's. It has grown from a purely volunteer group in 1883 to a fully professional fire department with 220 uniformed members as well as six fire inspectors, two plan checkers, a public education specialist and additional support staff. From the first hand and horse drawn equipment of yesteryear, technology has entered the realm of diesel engines and air-conditioned/fully-enclosed cabs. From wet face cloths, to fully self-contained breathing apparatus; from leather-lunged chiefs whose voices could be heard through a trumpet two blocks away, to the electronic voice of the radio dispatchers whose voices can be heard for miles; to the specialized Haz Mat and Urban Search and Rescue teams, the Riverside Fire Department has experienced change.
The spirit of our department, which began in the 1800's with William Hayt and Frank Miller, continues today. However, the real honor belongs to the fire personnel, both past and present, which daily accept the challenge of keeping our community a safer place in which to live.