The City of La Verne engaged a third-party consultant to evaluate a report provided by LA County Fire on the services they could provide to La Verne and the associated costs, as well as to conduct preliminary analysis of the City’s current state of fire operations along with a path forward to maintain its independent department.
Based on what was provided in this evaluation, the Council requested that LA County Fire provide the City with fire services contract terms for review and consideration, as well as conduct a detailed analysis of La Verne's current resources to determine the costs of conversion facilities and equipment.
The evaluation also recommended initial steps for pursuing options for continuing services by the La Verne Fire Department (LVFD) including funding a Standards of Response Coverage (SOC) study to determine how resources can best be deployed to meet actual community needs, as well as the hiring of a permanent fire chief (which has been completed). The SOC is currently being pursued while the City continues discussions with the County.
At this time, no final decision has been made regarding the future of the City’s delivery of fire and emergency medical services.
Residents are encouraged to read through the following timeline and additional information to gain a more holistic understanding of the fire services matter discussed here.
Please Note: The following timeline is in chronological order so that the most recent milestones and key actions are at the bottom of the list.
To better understand the community’s options for fire protection and emergency medical services, the City requested an initial proposal from LA County Fire.
With an increasing number of individuals electing to pursue employment with LA County Fire and other similar agencies, maintaining LVFD staffing levels has been challenging despite recruitment efforts. Staffing shortages ultimately resulted in the closure of Station 3 in January 2020. However, it is important to note that, since then, Station 3 area paramedic and ambulance transport services have been covered by a contract with CARE ambulance while the City works to fill the two firefighter/paramedic positions that will enable Station 3 to reopen.
Station 3 was originally opened in 2007 and staffed with two employees classified as firefighter/paramedics. There was a time when the USDA Forest Service rented space and housed one of the Forest Service's wildland fire engines and a crew at the station. But, that ended in 2013. The City's reserve fire apparatus are also periodically stored there, but there has never been a fully-staffed fire engine at Station 3.
LA County Fire delivered their initial proposal and report to the City. At that time, the City engaged the services of Messina and Associates to evaluate the proposal and simultaneously conduct an analysis of the City's current fire operations.
August 25, 2020
The Council received a presentation on and discussed Messina and Associates’ City of La Verne Fire Department Service Deployment Review (see below for additional information). The report’s findings concluded:
“If the city decides to continue the LVFD a comprehensive plan should be developed to address the current challenges, to include hiring a fire chief with the appropriate skill set and supporting the chief’s efforts over the long-term.
“Additionally, should the council decide to continue providing service through the LVFD it would be beneficial for the City and the LVFD to engage in a detailed review of the entirety of its operations as well as the community risk profile. This type of comprehensive review is contained in a SOC/CRA and also comes with an associated cost based on the level of detailed desired. Any serious attempt at re-organization will likely be met with skepticism from the suppression staff and until the organization is able to rebuild the trust lost and regain its positive culture, it is highly unlikely that the LVFD will ever be able to function beyond its current state.”
(Page 43, City of La Verne Fire Department Service Deployment Review)
Based on these findings and understanding the significance of this matter to the community, the Council committed to:
- Finding the best fire service delivery model possible to satisfy both the needs and interests of the La Verne community, while also acknowledging that no solution will be perfect.
- Exploring additional fire service delivery models beyond what is covered in the Review, including reaching out to LA County Fire on the feasibility of creating a hybrid service model that leverages the strengths that both LVFD and LA County Fire have to offer.
- Engaging with LVFD firefighters and the La Verne Firefighters’ Association to gain an understanding of their position on the matter and establish a collaborative path forward.
November 2, 2020
After a month-long public feedback period from the community on the findings of the report, over 120 comments were received, which were presented to the Council at their meeting on November 2, 2020. Also included in this report was an update on the research conducted on additional potential alternative service models with LA County Fire. Based on this information and the feedback received, the Council directed City staff to focus their efforts on working with LA County Fire to provide the City with fire services contract terms for review and consideration, as well as conduct a detailed analysis of La Verne's current resources to determine the costs of conversion facilities and equipment. At that time, the Council also decided to postpone implementation of any of the Review recommendations until the discussion with the County had been completed.
February 16, 2021
The City Council decided to not commit to any one service model until LA County Fire provides additional information for review and consideration. The Council also determined that, if LA County’s fire services contract terms are favorable, the decision to move forward with these services will need to be ratified by La Verne voters during the June 2022 election before being finalized. Click here to access the February 16, 2021 meeting recording.
Considering final determination would be over a year away, the city restarted its recruitment efforts for fire chief.
May 17, 2021
During the La Verne City Council’s preliminary budget study session, the Mayor requested that the Council program between $1.2 and $1.5 million from the City’s reserve funds to expand La Verne Fire Department (LVFD) staffing to bring a third paramedic engine into service (learn more).
While there was no support to move forward with the Mayor’s proposal, the rest of the Council took the following actions to provide opportunity for more strategic decision making that will ultimately support the La Verne community’s long-term fire and emergency services needs.
Council directed Staff to:
- Include funds in the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget to pursue a Standards of Response Coverage (SOC) report, which takes a comprehensive look at all aspects of an agency’s fire service and medical response capabilities and makes specific recommendations on how to best utilize resources to meet actual community needs across all aspects of the organization. This was previously recommended by Messina and Associates in their Review.
- Maintain plans to reopen LVFD Fire Station 3 on Esperanza Drive with paramedic and ambulance transport services, which continues to be included in the City’s annual budget. Station 3 initially closed in 2020 due to lack of staffing and, since then, the City has been in a state of constant recruitment to hire two firefighter paramedics needed to staff the station. Once those assignments have been filled, Station 3 will reopen immediately to provide paramedic and ambulance transport services to the La Verne community.
- Complete recruitment for and selection of a permanent fire chief. Interviews for a new fire chief have already begun and it is expected that the findings of the SOC should be available at the same time the City is appointing its permanent fire chief, which will be a valuable tool for the chief in determining how to move forward.
During this time, Council also acknowledged the need to find a sustainable funding source. The Mayor’s suggestion to utilize one-time funds, like reserves, to fund ongoing operations could put the City at future financial risk. If reserve funds were to be depleted, the City could be put into a position where it is unable to provide services during challenging times like the coronavirus pandemic.
July 6, 2021
During their regular meeting, the City Council unanimously voted to authorize the execution of an agreement with AP Triton to provide a Standards of Cover and Community Risk Analysis (SOC/CRA) on the City’s fire and emergency medical services. This comprehensive study will provide essential data and insights that will assist City leaders in determining next steps for the La Verne Fire Department.
After an approximate 5-month process, the SOC/CRA will provide three main takeaways. Firstly, it will evaluate LVFD’s current effectiveness as measured against industry standards and best practices. Second, every area of the city, from buildings to open spaces, will be examined to determine all potential hazards and associated levels of risk to better understand the community’s needs. And lastly, it will take into account the current condition of all aspects of the LVFD – including policies, equipment, staffing and even communication practices – to make detailed and actionable recommendations to improve service delivery and increase the department's effectiveness.
August 16, 2021
The La Verne City Council approved Christopher Nigg as the new Fire Chief of the La Verne Fire Department, ending the over two-year hiatus of a permanent Fire Chief leading the department. Nigg’s start date began at the end of August 2021 (learn more).
November 8, 2021
The La Verne City Council held an adjourned session to hear a presentation from Fire Chief Christopher Nigg. Chief Nigg provided an overview of his assessments on the various aspects of the Fire Department’s operations as well as recommendations for improvements throughout the Department (learn more). With overwhelmingly positive reactions to Chief Nigg’s proposal from the La Verne City Council, La Verne Firefighters Association and community members, the Chief will come back to Council with his specific authorization requests in order to implement the plan.
City’s Recruitment Efforts
Beginning in the middle of 2019, the City entered a stage of continuous recruitment to fully fill firefighter vacancies. Since that time, the City has hired 10 firefighters out of a department total of 36 full-time employees but still has yet to keep up with the vacancies created by employee departures. The predominant loss of personnel has been to larger agencies and most notably Los Angeles County. While the City Council has committed additional dollars toward employee salaries in order to be more competitive, larger agencies generally offer additional desirable opportunities for employees compared to La Verne. The recent retirement of a fire engineer coupled by two firefighter’s accepting offers with another agency, will only continue to affect the City’s efforts in fully staffing the department.
Status of Fire Chief Recruitment
The City originally began recruitment for a permanent fire chief in early 2020 but later suspended those efforts due to discussions regarding the delivery service model options and challenges brought about by COVID-19. When the decision was made in February 2021 to postpone any final action until after the June 2022 election, recruitment efforts were restarted.
The first round of assessment interviews were completed mid-May 2021. Each candidate interviewed with three separate panels – community, technical and the La Verne Firefighters’ Association. Based on input from the panels, a second round of interviews were conducted in June 2021.
The La Verne City Council approved Christopher Nigg as the new Fire Chief of the La Verne Fire Department (LVFD) on August 16, 2021, ending the over two-year hiatus of a permanent Fire Chief leading the department. (Learn more.)
Status of Discussions with County
The City received an initial cost assessment from LA County Fire and is currently reviewing the document. Staff is pulling together questions to clarify some areas of the cost assessment and will be submitting them to the County.
How La Verne Residents Can Keep Updated
Residents and other stakeholders are encouraged to check this webpage for updates and follow the City's social media channels. Additionally, updates on this process will be provided periodically at City Council meetings, which allows for public comment and concerns.
City of La Verne Fire Department Service Deployment Review
The City previously engaged a third-party consultant, Messina and Associates, to evaluate a report provided by LA County Fire on the services they could provide to La Verne and the associated costs, as well as to conduct preliminary analysis of the City’s current fire operations by the La Verne Fire Department (LVFD). Messina and Associates completed their analysis, culminating in the release of the City of La Verne Fire Department Service Deployment Review (Review), also sometimes referenced as “The Fire Study.”
The fundamental findings of the Review surfaced a key question for the Council’s consideration and represents a fork in the road for options for the community: shift to a highly functional fire department in a relatively short time frame with a move to LA County Fire but experience increased costs for services; or, maintain local control of the City’s fire services and spend additional funds which would need to be identified to implement reforms, improve staffing levels and address an array of management issues.