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Santa Ana disbands fire department to save money

March 6, 2012 |  7:22 am

Santa ana

The firehouse on Walnut Street in Santa Ana is dotted with reminders of the department's proud 128-year history.

A fire alarm telegraph system from 1924 takes up the back wall of the upstairs living room. Downstairs in the garage, the department's first motorized pumping engine from 1921 is dwarfed by the modern truck, engine and ambulance.

On Monday, however, the Santa Ana Fire Department reached a final milestone. Officials gathered for a ceremony to mark the City Council's decision to disband the department and have the Orange County Fire Authority handle fires and medical calls for Orange County's second-largest city.

Many of the firefighters will continue to work in Santa Ana. But they will work for an agency that officials say will save the city — which faces a $30-million deficit — $10 million a year in expenses.

As cities grapple with the fallout of the recession, they are looking at relinquishing their independent fire departments to cut costs.

Another large city, Costa Mesa, is still considering a proposal by the Orange County Fire Authority to take over emergency services. El Segundo and Monterey Park have discussed joining the Los Angeles County Fire Department, with voters in El Segundo scheduled to vote on the matter in April.

Cities elsewhere in Southern California, in the Bay Area and in Sacramento have merged their fire departments with those in neighboring communities or with larger agencies, or are in talks to do so.

Officials have one overriding goal: Improving the economies of scale so they can cover their cities with lower administrative costs and sometimes fewer firefighters.


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Photo: Vintage photos line the wall at Station 5 in Santa Ana. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times