Stand-off over rescue services in California

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The California Office of Emergency Services is to settle a dispute between the Orange County Fire Authority and the Sheriff’s Department, both of which are responding to calls for emergency medical assistance and evacuation in the region. Although there has been as many as 40 meetings between the two organisations in an effort to mediate the dispute and come up with a resolution as to which one responds to calls for air rescue services, these have been unsuccessful, hence the move to call in the Office of Emergency Services.

Helicopter teams from both the Sheriff’s Department and the Fire Authority have been responding to rescue scenes, and arguments over which one has jurisdiction have occurred both over the radio and face to face – at times, allege certain reports, while patients were left unattended, and in one case, where officers from one organisation attempted to ‘snatch’ a patient on a stretcher from members of another team. Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson is quoted as saying that recent incidents in which helicopters from the Fire Authority and Sheriff’s Department flew very close to one another were ‘so far outside of the realm of acceptable that somebody needs their licence taken now’, adding that it was not unlike a ‘game of airborne chicken’.


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