More than 100 people crowded into what was once Fire Station 22, now station 47, at Sixth Street and Hillside Avenue in Norco for the ceremonial transfer. The official transition took place Sunday.
Reflecting Norco’s Horsetown USA motto, Riverside County Fire Chief John R. Hawkins vowed that the city’s Volunteer Animal Rescue unit would not be disbanded.
Last year, difficult economic times caused the Norco City Council to vote to turn the Norco Fire Department over to Cal Fire/Riverside County. Hawkins said officials of the equestrian-oriented community expressed concern that the county might not continue the city’s animal rescue unit.
“I wanted to tell everyone there would be no question we wanted to continue the team,” said Hawkins, who stood about 100 feet away from hoists designed to lift trapped horses.
Norco Mayor Kevin Bash expressed relief that the economic burden of supporting the Fire Department was lifted from the city’s shoulders by the move to state/county control.
He called the switch “a city saver because by not having to worry about the unfunded liabilities such as disability insurance, things like that, by contracting (with Cal Fire) we save about $1.4 million. The long-term saving is extraordinary.”
Bash said the ceremony “made me realize this move is the right move for the city of Norco. I think our people are going to be better protected in terms of (Cal Fire) having larger resources.”
Seven Norco firefighters are moving to stations outside the city.
Bash also handed out awards as expressions of thanks to employees of the Corona Fire Department whom he called “our emergency partners for almost 100 years. Recipients included Corona fire dispatchers Laura Dunn and Stormy Bricker, who were presented plaques.
“I have done this for 28½ years,” said Dunn. “I thought it was day-to-day business. I was surprised to be recognized.”
Peter Bryan, the interim Norco fire chief during the transition, was honored by Bash.
The Norco firefighters had Cal Fire badges pinned on their chests, most by family members. For the fourth time in his career, Capt. Danny Drake received a new badge, this time from his son, Connor, 20.
Danny Drake started his career in Norco, then switched to Corona, then back to Norco and now to Cal Fire.
“It’s another chapter in my career,” said Danny Drake. It’s special like all of them have been.”