New facility increases response times in community emergencies

PASO ROBLES — On Saturday, April 13, our local Fire and Emergency Services officially celebrated the opening of Fire Station 3 in Paso Robles. In the works since 2017, the recently completed station is the first of three phases for the new public safety site.

Paso Robles Fire Chief Johnathan Stornetta has noticed a significant improvement in the department since the station opened. “Since its opening, our response metrics are even better than what we expected,” he said.

Stornetta explained the importance of quicker response times.

“We’re saving on average 60 seconds in our response times, which some people say it’s only 60 seconds, but if you’re in cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest, then you lose 10 percent of your brain function for every minute,” he told Paso Robles Press. “If you want to take a chance at it, you’re already at 40 percent before we even got out the door by the time the call comes in and everything.”

The station’s biggest roadblock in construction was the COVID pandemic in regards to the supply-chain delays.

Stornetta explains that it cost the city about $7.5 million to build the station, which they are happy with considering similar stations are being built for about $13 million to $14 million.

“We were very efficient in how we constructed the place,” explained Stornetta. “And we did a lot of work internally with staff on design and planning and helping out here at station site. So we cut about as many corners we could to save money.” 

Prior to the station’s opening, the city has relied primarily on the Downtown Station to be the center of calls for the city’s emergencies.

“It’s extremely crucial because right now our downtown station’s, the busiest fire station in the county,” Stornetta added about the importance of having the support from the new station.

The current building on site for Station 3 is the first of three phases. The second phase will consist of a training tower, and the third will be a training classroom. 

Stornetta says that the department is working to build a partnership with Cuesta College to bring a fire academy to Paso Robles. With the closest academy being in Lompoc, the hope is to entice more individuals to join the department. The fire chief explains that about five years ago, the department would receive around 300 applications for a firefighter position. Now, they receive maybe 30 applicants. He notes the biggest obstacle is that people can’t afford to live in Paso Robles.

“We’re trying to keep local jobs here,” says Stornetta. “We need to tap into our local resources, which are the people that currently live here. Their families live here. They don’t have to move here. And we hire those people because they’re the ones that stick around.”

The next two phases for the station are currently in the works and looking to be completed within the next two years if all goes well.

“We’re preparing for the future development because there’s a lot of it still coming,” said Stornetta.

Also at the station during its grand opening on Saturday were representatives from the North County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. The program which holds two basic training sessions per year in Paso Robles, educates volunteers about disaster preparedness and trains them in basic disaster response skills. It is a nationwide organization run entirely by volunteers.

The basic training program is a 20-hour course teaching people how to prepare for disasters, how to survive them, and then how to respond and recover from them.

North SLO County CERT Program Manager John Spooner told Paso Robles Press that “People who take this course are much less likely to become victims of a disaster because they are more knowledgeable and better prepared and they’re also better able to help their neighbors or their community in the event of a large scale disaster.”

This year, Spooner said they are planning to add a teen CERT program in July. The teen program is planned to offer a 24-hour training to include the same basic training protocols, with added hands-on CPR, the administration of Narcan, and how to use an EpiPen.  

The North County CERT program began around 2010 according to Spooner. During COVID, the program was shut down and revived in 2021.

“My focus on this program the last couple of years has been growth,” Spooner said. “I want to get the people who took the course [before] and I want the people who haven’t taken this course to come to our classes.”

The program receives the majority of their funding through a grant with PG&E and additional support from the local fire department. However, the teen program is planned to be funded differently with support from the community.

Spooner expressed a need for more community members to receive trainign through CERT with the potential for earthquakes, flooding, and wildfires constantly looming.

“People need to be prepared for this, and one of the best ways they can learn how to do it is through CERT classes,” he said.

Fire Station 3 is located at 2924 Union Road. You can find more information on CERT here

Featured Image: Paso Robles firefighters and their families pose inside of Fire Station 3 for its grand opening on April 13. Photo by Camille DeVaul