Thin resources cause emergency response lag on I-40 in San Bernardino County

A roll-over accident on Interstate 40 that could have been worse highlights just how scarce emergency resources are for this desolate area of San Bernardino County.

Twenty minutes after Andy Griaud pulled over and dialed 911, he was still waiting for help to arrive for the couple involved in the crash.

"This time I just spoke calmingly and talked about family and friends and how lucky they were to be safe," Griaud said.

Thirty minutes later, an engine from Barstow's Marine Corps Logistics Base arrived. But the closest available San Bernardino County fire unit was still 75 miles away.

"Along the I-40 there is nothing between Barstow and Needles," said Jim Grigoli of the San Bernardino County Firefighters Local 935.

Grigoli said emergency services along the 155-mile span of I-40 are stretched too thin.

"We think it is a danger to the public by not having resources available to provide service within a reasonable amount of time," Grigoli said.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors is responsible for the area and budgeting money for services.

The problem is that there isn't enough revenue in property taxes generated from the small communities along the interstate to pay for additional staffing or a much-needed fire station. And budget cuts have the county eyeing the closure of station 45 in Wonder Valley which serves I-40.

"It would extend our ETA to the I-40 to between an hour and half and two hours," Grigoli said.

I-40 is a popular travel route. This weekend, hundreds of bikers are heading to Arizona for the Laughlin River Run.

Alfred Gutierrez and his family are among them. Gutierrez is also counting on local rescuers to be available.

"God forbid if something does happen I want them to come and help us out," Gutierrez said.
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