Wilmington firefighters welcome back 'Light Force 38' engine

WILMINGTON, Calif. (KABC) -- Firefighters in Wilmington are no longer worried about how to cover their more than nine square miles with only a single engine company.

Heading into Station 38 located on East I Street, a visitor can begin to see why as Los Angeles Fire Capt. Louis Polanco gives a tour.

This station has been operating with half its crew and without "Light Force 38" engine for nearly a decade. Polanco is thrilled new grant money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will put back the Light Force Special Task Force, which includes a brand new ladder truck and fire engine in the fire station.

"It's great for the community, it's great for the fire department and it's great for the fire station," Polanco said.

Wilmington covers more than nine square miles. This station responds on average to 12 to 15 calls a shift, which affected a lot of the surrounding fire companies over the years since the budget cuts under former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

"The closest truck company to get to Wilmington was about six minutes away. That was just to get on scene. That wasn't to set up equipment or get ladders to the roof," Polanco explains.

In 2011, Station 38 lost six firefighters and Light Force 38, but today, L.A. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas welcomed back the much needed equipment to a station, which aided in fighting the Woolsey Fire and other recent brush fires.

"Light Force 38 was selected for restoration due to Wilmington's average daily call load, as well as the identified risk that exists due to the port of Los Angeles, multiple refineries and three major freeways," says Terrazas.

Since Light Force 38's return, the Wilmington fire house will gain not only the new apparatus, but six additional firefighters. Firefighters can now respond to a rescue call and still have a paramedic at the station to respond to the next call, which then still leaves the Light Force 38 crew behind in case of another emergency.

Breathing down the neck of every Southern California firefighter is a volatile fire season nearly all year round making this return all that more necessary.

Polanco says today marks a new day.

"Some of the members of this fire station they went out to those fires and that's another great thing about having a Light Force here is that we were relying on other cities to give us help during that time," he said.

Aid which is longer a regular necessity.
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