The home — which received extensive damage — was in the coverage area of Station 301, the fire station shut down Jan. 14 after 80 percent of voters in November rejected an $85 a year tax hike.
Authorities received a call at 7 p.m. Feb. 29 reporting a house fire in the 10300 block of Hemlock Road. Crews from two of Hesperia’s three fire stations were at medical calls at the time, according to Tracy Martinez, spokeswoman for the Fire Department.
Hesperia City Councilman Mike Leonard, a retired firefighter, said making better use of fire crews could have kept Station 301 open.
“We could have gone down to two-man engines (instead of closing Station 301), but the fire union was very much against that,” he said Friday.
Although safety regulations prevent a two-man crew from entering a burning building, there are still things a smaller crew could have done.
“You can always do a defensive stand, and fight the fires through the windows instead,” Leonard said. “When I first started, I was on an engine by myself, and I used to fight fires by myself.”
The fire destroyed the garage, two vehicles and half of the home.
Bret Henry, president of the San Bernardino County Professional Firefighters, said while a two-man engine may be able to fight structure fires from the outside, they would still have to wait for a second crew to arrive before entering a building if a victim was inside.
“We’re in the business of saving lives,” Henry said. “They’re banking on no one being inside any structure fire.”
During the Feb. 29 incident, an engine and ambulance staffed with five firefighters from Station 302 were responding to a medical aid call in the eastern section of the city and the remaining ambulance manned by two firefighters was assisting Station 304 with another medical aid call. Station 305 firefighters made it to the scene shortly after the Victorville crew.
Dispatch entered the call into the system a minute later and at 7:02 p.m. the call was assigned to four engines including engine 311 located at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in Victorville, according to Martinez.
A Hesperia medic ambulance from station 302 arrived nine minutes later and had to wait for a minute until the first firefighting engine arrived from Station 311. The standard is to be on scene within six minutes.
The city of Hesperia is looking at “all available options” to restore staffing levels, city spokeswoman Kelly Malloy said. However, she said public safety grants are particularly competitive in this economic environment.
“One of these days, we’ll get it back open,” Leonard said. “It’s unfortunate, but we can’t afford to suck our reserve funds dry. We’re a pretty bare-bones operation as it is.”