The Cathedral City Fire Department was dedicated and began service on January 1, 1988 starting with twenty full-time fire personnel operating out of two stations. Administration, which was housed at Station 412, consisted of the Fire Chief, Administrative Captain, and a part-time Secretary. Reserve firefighters, for the first year, provided on-call staffing for a third engine company.
In the years prior to 1987, fire services in Cathedral City were provided by CDF, and consisted of both paid and volunteer firefighters. In July, 1987, the City Council notified the Riverside County Fire Department that they do not intend to renew their fire contract. By October, the City recruited a Fire Chief to organize and implement the City's own full-time fire services.
In November, 1987, the City recruited, tested and hired Firefighters, Engineers, and Captains to staff the new department. The new personnel researched and purchased all tools, equipment and apparatus needed to start the new fire department. Their success was exemplary, showing how much could be accomplished when everyone worked together to achieve a common goal. The spirit of team work set a strong foundation that the department has continually built upon.
At 0800 on January 1, 1988, fire protection services transferred from the California Department of Forestry to the new "Cathedral City Fire Department". Expanding their scope of responsibilities and apparatus inventory, the department applied for and was successful in obtaining a fire engine from California's Office Of Emergency Services.
In February, 1988, the department hired a Part-Time Fire Marshal to do plan checking and to enforce the Uniform Fire Code.
As of March, 1988, the department entered into an Automatic and Mutual Aid Agreement with the City of Palm Springs.
In March, 1988, we hosted our first public Open House. There was a tremendous turnout. Food, balloons, and demonstrations were very well received by the public and elected officials present. With this success under their belt, the Firefighters Association held a pancake breakfast in June, 1988 at the Community Center to raise funds for the "Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation". Doctor George Fischbeck was presented with a check for $1000.
The department increased its clerical support by hiring a full-time Secretary in July, and in August, three Reserve Firefighters were hired to serve as relief personnel. The "Fire Marshal's" position was increased from a part-time position to a full-time position. An open test was held and a Captain/Fire Marshal was hired.
By year-end, the City negotiated and purchased Fire Station 411 from Riverside County. Expanding our scope of services, the department tested, and hired six Paramedic Firefighters for the new fire department paramedic ambulance service. By June, 1989, the Cathedral City began transporting patients. The program started with two completely equipped ambulances.
In October, 1989, the department held its first annual "Fire Prevention Week" open house. The event concludes a week of community fire prevention activities.
After establishing a committee that developed bid specifications in November, the department purchased a new 100 foot "LTI Aerial Ladder Truck". The truck was designed as a two-piece company along with the paramedic ambulance. The truck company formed the department's third full-time unit.
In March, 1990, the Fire Marshal, with donated monies, started a "Free Smoke Detector" program that makes smoke detectors available to low income and elderly families throughout the city.
In May, 1991, the department participated in the first Insurance Service Office (ISO) survey as a municipality. The survey resulted in an improvement from a class 6-9 to a class 4.
Due to the economy and budget cuts, the department "Lost Three Relief Firefighter Positions" and the department secretary in July, 1991. With the help of the entire department, all personnel scheduled for layoff were retained until other jobs/openings were found.
After a department review and amendments were developed in November, 1991, the City Council adopted the 1988 Uniform Fire Code and fee schedule.
In February, 1992, the City's new "Emergency Operations Center" (EOC) is completed and dedicated.
After two years of planning by the department's staff, "Fire Station Three" construction is complete. The station which includes 7,000 square feet of commercial lease space is the first public/private partnership project the City has undertaken. The station is a model for others to follow.
The department began offering monthly Adult/Child/Infant Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation classes to residents of the City in 1995, and later that year, our EOC doors opened to all Coachella Valley Firefighters as the first State Fire Marshal training class was offered. The class was in Fire Investigation.
By 1996, the Reserve Paramedic/Firefighter program was developed and implemented. Six Paramedic Reserves were hired to provide staffing for the backup medic unit during the nighttime hours (1600 - 0600). A year later, five regular Reserve Firefighters received acceptance into Paramedic School. One Battalion Chief position reclassified to Assistant Fire Chief.
In November, 1996, Cathedral City's Fire Chief, George Truppelli, resigned to accept the City Manager position with the City. Assistant Chief Steven Sowles was appointed as the Interim Fire Chief, and subsequently was appointed the permanent spot at the top.
In February, 1997, the Citizen Emergency Response Training (CERT) program was adopted by the department to train Neighborhood Emergency Service Team members. By July, the CERT program graduated it's first class of 15 volunteers.
The department took possession of a newer Office of Emergency Services (OES) fire engine in August. The City's previous engine (187) was sent to Fallbrook, while the newer engine (238) came from Riverside City.
The department celebrated its 10th Anniversary of service in January, 1998.
In 2000, the City received a new “ISO” Class 3 rating. Later that year, the Hazardous Material cost cleanup ordinance was approved by Council. In February, 2001, the department completed development of a Hazardous Materials Decontamination program with a trailer which was funded by an OES grant of $47,000.
In April, 2001, the Cathedral City Fire Department, Palm Springs Fire, and Riverside County Fire Department consolidated forces to instruct “Community Emergency Response Team” training.
Our Council approved the lease purchase of two new front line firefighting apparatus in August, 2001. A 65’ Telesqurt and a Type I Engine were manufactured for us by American La France. Both new American La France Fire Apparatus arrived in September, 2002 and were placed into service.
Our Paramedic Program expanded in July, 2002 when the Council approved the 2002/2003 budget with three new Firefighter Paramedic positions to provide staffing for third medic unit.
In June, 2006, Fire Chief Steven Sowles retired from the California Fire Service, and by October, William Soqui was appointed by City Council as the new Fire Chief.
In February, 2008, the department's first American La France Quint was placed into service at Station 412. Truck 412 was made possible with funds donated by our partners at the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
In April, 2009, our two Division Chief positions were reclassified as Battalion Chiefs, and a third Battalion Chief was hired as Administrative Chief. By March, 2010, the department was reduced to two BC positions that provided Fire Marshal, and Operations & Training under the Fire Chief.
The economic downturn leading up to 2011 resulted in layoffs City-wide, including the Fire Department. Layoffs included four Firefighters and the Fire Chief. The Department's Management Analyst and Receptionist retired in June, 2012.
Today, the Cathedral City Fire Department is staffed with a Fire Chief, three Battalion Chiefs, two Administrative Assistants, nine Captains, nine Engineers, 18 Firefighter Paramedics, and one full-time Fire Inspector.