Village News Reporter
The agreement in which the North County Fire Protection District stations and staffs a basic life support ambulance in Vista has been extended for another three months.
The three-month extension was approved on a 5-0 NCFPD board vote July 26. The ambulance is based at the Vista Fire Department’s Station 6 off of East Vista Way.
“That was an ambulance to help shore up our ambulance boundary drop program,” said NCFPD fire chief Keith McReynolds.
“It’s an ambulance for the region,” McReynolds said. “We put it in Vista because it’s centrally located there.”
What is known as the “North Zone” has an automatic aid program where the closest available resource is deployed regardless of the city or fire district where the call for service is needed. Vista is among the fire agencies participating in the boundary drop agreement, but the location of Vista causes Vista Fire Department resources to be deployed to other cities or unincorporated communities. The automatic aid calls have left Vista itself without ambulance service, and the City of Vista had considered withdrawing from the ambulance boundary drop agreement.
(The Vista Fire Department is an agency of the City of Vista. The Vista Fire Protection District, which includes part of southern Bonsall as well as unincorporated Vista, contracts with the City of Vista for fire protection and emergency medical services so the Vista Fire Department is also the primary agency providing service within the Vista Fire Protection District boundaries.)
The North County Fire Protection District fleet includes three NCFPD ambulances based at fire stations and three reserve ambulances. On March 22, the NCFPD board voted 5-0 to station and staff a basic life support ambulance in Vista for a 30-day trial period. The NCFPD ambulance based in Vista is staffed from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
“We added an ambulance to the North Zone boundary drop system,” McReynolds said.
Because the ambulance in Vista is for basic life support it is staffed by emergency medical technicians rather than paramedics. “It handles the lower-priority calls,” McReynolds said. “It kept the Vista ambulances available for the high-priority calls.”
The NCFPD ambulances stationed at NCFPD Station 1 (Ivy Street), Station 4 (Pala Mesa) and Station 5 (Bonsall) are all advanced life support ambulances. “We still have our three paramedic ambulances here in Fallbrook,” McReynolds said.
The use of single-role emergency medical technicians means that no NCFPD firefighters are based outside of the NCFPD boundaries.
The BLS ambulance at Station 6 has two emergency medical technicians who are NCFPD employees. In addition to providing service to the Vista and NCFPD coverage areas the ambulance has also responded to calls in Oceanside and Carlsbad.
The ambulance was first placed into service April 11. The period from April 11 through June 11 allowed for two months worth of data to be collected and analyzed. During that time the NCFPD ambulance responded to 354 calls including 166 incidents in which the ambulance transported a patient.
The 30-day trial period was intended to confirm or refute the belief that ambulance billing would recover the NCFPD operational expenses. Over the first two months, the personnel costs were approximately $29,000 while other operating expenses such as fuel and supplies totaled approximately $10,000. Based on information from the NCFPD third-party billing administrator, the ambulance transport revenue for that period was approximately $48,000.
“We’re keeping all the revenue from it,” McReynolds said.