Los Angeles County Fire Dept. Takes On Orange County Duties

LA HABRA, Calif. -- An unusual changing of the guard is to occur Wednesday in the Orange County city of La Habra, when the Los Angeles County Fire Department officially assumes duties once held by the city fire department.

"It is the first time in the state that a city has contracted with fire service outside of its county," Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby -- whose 4th District includes La Habra -- noted Tuesday.

Norby said the changeover was "probably a positive move for the city."

"(Monday) in La Habra, there was a very unusual badging ceremony," he said.

"The La Habra Fire Department, as of Monday, ceased to exist as a city fire department, and all 32 firefighters previously employed by the city are now wearing badges for the Los Angeles County Fire Department," continued Norby, whose 4th District includes the city.

Because La Habra borders Los Angeles County, officials said it was easier to contract with that county fire department than with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Over the next 10 years, the city will pay nearly $72 million for county fire services, compared to $69.5 million had the city kept its own fire department.

La Habra will get five more firefighters, and a fourth fire station is planned.

Fire Capt. Fred Rodriguez, 52, said the deal breathed new life into his career.

"I thought I was at the end of my career," he told the Whittier Daily News at Monday's ceremony. "This is really a dream come true. There are a lot of opportunities."

La Habra Mayor Steve Anderson said the deal should improve fire and paramedic services in the city, because it will have access to Los Angeles County helicopters, rescue teams, hazardous-materials equipment and newer, more sophisticated search-and-rescue tools.