As the 61st Sunset Beach Fireman’s Ball approaches, the stakes have never been higher for the feisty, independent seaside community.
The event will be held on Friday, Nov. 20 at The Best Western Golden Sails Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom 6285 E. Pacific Coast Highway, in Long Beach.
Amid a push by the powers that be in Orange County to have the unincorporated area join the larger city of Huntington Beach, there are distinct murmurs that the neighborhood’s local volunteer fire department may be heading for its sundown.
The department is greatly funded by the ball, which has been not only a tradition in Sunset Beach, but a way to raise awareness of the needs of the local fire department.
Some residents say they feel more comfortable with local firefighters, even if on a volunteer basis, in service to protect and serve the local community.
Part of the challenge is geographic. Sunset Beach is a near virtual island of land that is reached for the most part by bridge from the north and has but one main road, Warner Avenue which connects to Pacific coast Highway.
Sunset Beach residents have had a long time concern that in the event of a major disaster such as a large earthquake, the area could be cut off from regular county emergency services; hence the psychological importance to the local community of having its own volunteer fire department on hand.
Sunset Beach resident Tim Ortiz recently met with the Orange County Fire Authority. He reported back to the Sunset Beach Community Association at a recent meeting.
There were three choices that Fire Authority Committee came up with.
1. Close the Sunset Beach Fire Department.
2. Leave the Fire Department open but get rid of the fire truck.
3. Improve training, hire more reserves, and build the program. The voting was 11 to 10 to choose option #3.
Sunset Beach now has 18 to 24 months to improve its Fire Department and training program. After that, Sunset’s fire department will be reviewed again.
“What we need is more reserves,” Ortiz told the community association. “Right now we have only 8, and we need 20 – 25. We need everyone’s help in recruiting. We will also try the colleges for new personnel.
For those interested in weighing in on the issue: The Fire Department’s e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.