The Central County Fire Department began its long history almost a century ago, with the births of the Burlingame Fire Department and the Hillsborough Fire Department in the early part of the century. Nothing more than volunteer community based departments, much has changed over the decades. Yet the commitment to providing exceptional emergency services to the surrounding communities of Burlingame and Hillsborough remains unwavering. We strive daily to live up to our reputation as an outstanding provider of fire and life safety services. The historic merge of the Burlingame and Hillsborough Fire Departments highlighted this long-standing tradition of commitment to excellence.
On April 20, 2004, the city councils for the two respective organizations approved the merger of the neighboring fire departments, thus creating Central County Fire Department. The combined operating budget for the two departments working independently was $13,250,000. The 2004/2005 operating budget under the newly merged department is $11,533,350. The Fire Department is doing everything within its means to run efficiently and still provide quality service.
The City of Burlingame and the Town of Hillsborough are bedroom communities located on the narrow Peninsula corridor just south of San Francisco International Airport and bordered by the west shore of San Francisco Bay. The jurisdictional limits are just 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco, and 20 miles north of Silicon Valley. Its convenient location and temperate weather make it a desirable suburban locale. Within its twelve square miles it has a resident population of 40,000. The City is also home to a transient population of up to 5,000 people per day who stay at one of the 12 hotels or work in the many business offices that are intertwined along the waterfront that is bordered by the bay and Interstate Highway 101.
A second interstate highway (280) and watershed area provides the western City border. The City is also home to an industrial strip, a major hospital, two commercial avenues, and a number of auto dealerships. There are also three high schools, six intermediate schools, and twelve elementary schools. Burlingame is also home to a large rental population in the many apartments that line the main access road, El Camino Real.
Central County Fire Department is comprised of approximately 80 highly trained professional men and women serving in five fire stations located throughout Burlingame and Hillsborough. A board, comprised of two council members from each city council governs the new department under a Joint Powers Agreement. The Chief Administrative Officer of Central County Fire Department rotates between each of the city managers for Burlingame and Hillsborough.
The top-ranking leader of the department is the Fire Chief, supported by a Deputy Chief, Division Chiefs, Battalion Chiefs, Captains, and Inspectors. The Firefighters are a diverse group with all members trained as engineers, most as Paramedics, and a number who are part of California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 3. Also among this group are other specialty positions including on-shift fire prevention officers, inspectors, tactical paramedics and mechanics. Annually, the department responds to 4,255 calls for service. Each member plays an integral role in providing services in fire suppression, EMS, prevention, training, administration and disaster preparedness.
The Fire Department also participates in a Joint Powers Agreement within San Mateo County providing Advanced Life Support as part of a twenty city, fifty-six engine company workforce. Through a series of mutual and automatic aid agreements each city in San Mateo County responds seamlessly to provide citizens in the county with the closest available units to mitigate any emergency all dispatched through San Mateo County’s Public Safety Communications.
The Tactical Medic Team was formed, with minimal funding to assist the North County SWAT Team, which consisted of Brisbane, Burlingame, Foster City, Hillsborough, San Bruno, San Mateo, and South San Francisco Law Enforcement agencies. The tactical medics primary function is to provide care in situations that provide the highest level of pre hospital medical care at the earliest opportunity during potentially hostile situations. Along with the ability to provide a high level of medical care, the tactical medics also contribute their knowledge and skills in many other areas to support the SWAT Team, such as: building construction, specialized tools and extrication techniques, scene and weapon’s safety management.
The tactical medics have acquired a type III modular ambulance donated by AMR. The ambulance was used for long distance transports which translates into a larger than normal ambulance suited to store and transport large specialized equipment. This vehicle will be used by the Tactical Medic Team to respond to Swat activations and store the technical equipment.
The Tactical Medic Team consisted of five individuals and has expanded. As of April 1, 2005, the team is comprised of fourteen individuals from Central County, Millbrae, San Bruno, San Mateo and South San Francisco Fire Departments.
Almost a year prior to the actual April 20, 2004 merge, the fire prevention bureau in the two cities combined forces to enhance its overall prevention program. Staffed with a fire marshal, two full-time inspectors, three shift inspectors and one public education volunteer along with the efforts of an aggressive company inspection program – the fire prevention bureau maintains a pro-active prevention program. Burlingame and Hillsborough are comprised of a very diverse population. Spanning a community widely diverse in age, class and culture can present its challenges. Other challenges faced by the department vary from its multiple highrise buildings, large industry, growing research facilities, historic mansions, a wildland urban interface among three large canyons, and meeting customer service needs.
Recognizing the importance of public education as a first line of defense in fire prevention, the department is expanding its programs with its senior population and business community. We are most proud that we continue to maintain our relationship with our community’s schools through our Junior Fire Marshal Program, a program in existance for almost 60 years!
The department has operated a state of the art mechanic shop since 1993. Located in Burlingame this shop is staffed with three full time firefighter/mechanics who work the Department 56 hour per week schedule. These mechanics are fully certified both as mechanics and firefighters. Each mechanic is permanently assigned to the shop and station.
The department also offers mechanic services to neighboring cities in an effort to generate revenue. Surrounding departments responded to the convenience of having a nearby facility that could handle many of their repair or maintenance needs. The value of having firefighter/mechanics who work primarily on fire apparatus available twenty-four hours a day proved to be a successful venture. Their background in the fire service gives the mechanics a unique and believable perspective since they also respond and work alongside their “customers.” The facility now serves seven of the seventeen cities in the San Mateo County. Regular scheduled maintenance and repair is performed on twenty-three fire engines, five trucks, and assorted rescue and response vehicles.
Central County Fire Department shares training opportunities with its surrounding neighbors as well. In-service training is provided with the assistance of our three truck captains who serve as shift training officers in a three year rotational position. They assist with everything form probationary training to developing new procedures and reviewing existing evolutions.
Working in conjunction with our neighboring agencies, the Central County Fire Department has played an integral role in developing a Special Operations Team trained and equipped for medium rescue capabilities. The team is currently training for confined space rescue, trench rescue, and technical rescues. Once fully up to speed, the Special Operations Team will become a regional resource (central county) within San Mateo County.
As you can see above, the sign of the times is to “share services” in the wake of shrinking economies. Regionally, city managers throughout San Mateo County are looking at ways to maintain and improve our level of service despite the economic challenges that come before us. Many times Shared Services have improved our levels of service and where there may be other avenues that the Central County Fire Department can enhance the quality of life for our community – we will pursue it with out end!