Orange County Fire Authority
Prior to May, 1980, fire service for the cities of Cypress, Irvine, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Placentia, San Juan Capistrano, Tustin, Villa Park, and Yorba Linda along with the County unincorporated areas was provided by the California Department of Forestry (CDF)*. However, on May 16, 1980, the Orange County Fire Department (OCFD) was formed as a county department reporting to the Board of Supervisors. Its fire chief was Larry Holms. Fifty-two percent of the 518,483 residents served by the OCFD lived in unincorporated areas of the County.
However, over the course of the next decade, five new cities were formed from unincorporated territory and two additional cities decided to contract with OCFD for fire service. As a result, by January 1, 1991, over 80% of OCFD's service population of 808,139 lived within these sixteen cities. Yet their fire service was still governed by the Board of Supervisors. The cities wanted greater input into how their emergency services were provided. Clearly a new form of governance was needed for these new circumstances.
During 1991, the OCFD was on its way exploring the possibility of forming a special district as an independent entity governed by a board of directors representing the member cities and the County. The California Government Code dealing with special districts was studied, other fire protection districts were contacted, and services the new agency would need to provide were identified (i.e. investment services, employee benefits, payroll, and purchasing). Discussions had begun with the County about transferring title of the fire stations to the new organization. However, although a great deal of enthusiasm and effort was poured into this project, unforeseen difficulties prevented the formation of a special district.
Nevertheless, the dream did not die and the momentum was soon recaptured. A new governance structure, a Joint Powers Authority (JPA), was selected. Much of the previous work was used in this endeavor. By 1994 the plans and structure of the new agency were well underway. The County Board of Supervisors, the various City Councils, the OCFD labor groups, and management were all pulling together to launch the new JPA. Then on December 6, 1994, the County of Orange declared bankruptcy. Yet, in spite of this almost insurmountable obstacle, the dreams and plans were brought to fruition and the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), under Interim Fire Chief Ken Mcleod, was formed on March 1, 1995. The County bankruptcy, which was merely coincidental to the JPA formation, had not derailed the efforts.
Since then, the OCFA has continued to grow. Three more cities contracted with the OCFA for service and three new cities incorporated. The helicopter program was begun in 1995 and in 1997 Chip Prather was appointed the new Fire Chief. The move to the recently completed Regional Fire and Operations Training Center (RFOTC) finished in May of 2004 and in 2009 Keith Richter became the OCFA's third Fire Chief.
* - In 1980, the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, La Habra, Newport Beach, Orange, San Clemente, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, and Westminster had their own municipal fire departments. Since then, Buena Park, San Clemente, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, and Westminster joined the OCFD/OCFA.