The Dec. 8 ceremony signifies a milestone step for strengthening public safety in the region as the Morongo Fire Department marks its 25 anniversary.
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians gathered with public safety officials and elected leaders on Dec. 8, 2023 to break ground on a new state-of-the-art Morongo Fire Station #1 that will strengthen public safety on the Morongo Reservation and across the San Gorgonio Pass.
The new facility being built at Morongo and Santiago Roads will replace the former station that has housed the full-time, full-service Morongo Fire Department since 1998. At over 15,000 square feet, the station will be more than twice the size of the current location and will feature two apparatus bays and living spaces for up to twelve firefighters and ambulance personnel per shift.
“Today, we are taking an important step to move our Fire Department forward so it can continue to fully serve the needs of our Tribe and the surrounding communities,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Charles Martin. “Public safety has always been a top priority for our tribe, and this new station will further enable the Morongo Fire Department to fulfill its mission to protect lives and property.”
Launched in 1950s as a volunteer-based wildland firefighter hand crew known as the Flying Eagles, the Tribe created the full-time Morongo Fire Department in 1998 with three firefighters per shift at the current station which was initially shared with the Morongo Public Works Department.
Today, the Morongo Fire Department has nearly 50 firefighters, EMTs and ambulance personnel who respond to over 1,500 incidents per year, with almost half of those incidents occurring in the cities and communities surrounding the reservation. The Morongo Fire Department responds to everything from medical emergencies to traffic accidents, hazardous materials incidents, structure fires, and wildland fires.
“The Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ commitment to public safety on the reservation and surrounding communities is well known in our region and state,” said U.S. Congressman Raul Ruiz (CA-25). “That is why I am pleased to have secured $1 million in funding for their new fire station, which will help better respond to emergencies to keep our communities safe.”
Over the years, Morongo has advanced the department’s capabilities, most recently with Morongo‘s February 2023 launch of a tribal medical helicopter and ground ambulance – believed to be first program of its type in the nation between a federally recognized tribe and an emergency medical service provider.
“I want to extend my congratulations to the Morongo Band of Mission Indians on this significant milestone and the Tribe’s unbreakable commitment to public safety,” said Riverside County 5th District Supervisor Yxstian Gutierrez. “At Riverside County, we know the Morongo Tribal Government and the Morongo Fire Department as our public safety partners.”
Technological advancements at the new station will include sophisticated call alerting systems for emergency incidents, diesel exhaust removal systems prioritizing firefighter health, and enhanced facility exits for expedited response times. A commitment to sustainable practices is evident through the integration of solar energy solutions.
The station also will have back-up generators for any prolonged outages and is capable of providing a safe refuge to community members during floods, fires or other disasters Morongo Fire Chief Abdul Ahmad said the tribe conducted numerous studies to determine the best site for the new station to strengthen response times.
“This new station will help our department achieve its mission to protect the safety and well-being of the public and our fellow firefighters, and to safeguard property and the environment through our unyielding commitment to emergency preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery,” Chief Ahmad said.