Prior to May, 1980, fire service for the cities of Cypress, Irvine, La Palma, Los
Alamitos, Placentia, San Juan Capistrano, Tustin, Villa Park, and Yorba Linda along
with the County unincorporated areas was provided by the California Department of
Forestry (CDF)*. However, on May 16, 1980, the Orange County Fire Department
(OCFD) was formed as a county department reporting to the Board of Supervisors.
It's first Fire Chief was Larry Holmes. Fifty-two percent of the 518,483 residents
served by the OCFD lived in unincorporated areas of the County.
However, over the course of the next decade, five new cities were formed from unincorporated
territory and two additional cities decided to contract with OCFD for fire service.
As a result, by January 1, 1991, over 80% of OCFD's service population of 808,139
lived within these sixteen cities. Yet their fire service was still governed
by the Board of Supervisors. The cities wanted greater input into how their
emergency services were provided. Clearly a new form of governance was needed
for these new circumstances.
During 1991, the OCFD was on its way exploring the possibility of forming a special
district as an independent entity governed by a board of directors representing
the member cities and the County. The California Government Code dealing with
special districts was studied, other fire protection districts were contacted, and
services the new agency would need to provide were identified (i.e. investment services,
employee benefits, payroll, and purchasing). Discussions had begun with the
County about transferring title of the fire stations to the new organization.
However, although a great deal of enthusiasm and effort was poured into this project,
unforeseen difficulties prevented the formation of a special district.
Nevertheless, the dream did not die and the momentum was soon recaptured.
A new governance structure, a Joint Powers Authority (JPA), was selected.
Much of the previous work was used in this endeavor. By 1994 the plans and
structure of the new agency were well underway. The County Board of Supervisors,
the various City Councils, the OCFD labor groups, and management were all pulling
together to launch the new JPA. Then on December 6, 1994, the County of Orange
declared bankruptcy. Yet, inspite of this almost insurmountable obstacle,
the dreams and plans were brought to fruition and the Orange County Fire Authority
(OCFA), under Interim Fire Chief Ken Mcleod, was formed on March 1, 1995. The County
bankruptcy, which was merely coincidental to the JPA formation, had not derailed
Since then, the OCFA has continued to grow. Three more cities contracted with
the OCFA for service and three new cities incorporated. The helicopter program
was begun in 1995 and in 1997 Chip Prather was appointed the new Fire Chief.
The move to the recently completed Regional Fire and Operations Training Center
(RFOTC) finished in May of 2004 and in 2009 Keith Richter became the OCFA's third
* - In 1980, the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fountain
Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, La Habra, Newport
Beach, Orange, San Clemente, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, and Westminster had
their own municipal fire departments. Since then, Buena Park, San Clemente, Santa Ana, Seal
Beach, Stanton, and Westminster joined the OCFD/OCFA.