The Coast News Group

REACH Air ambulance settles into new home

OCEANSIDE — REACH Air ambulance recently settled into its new home at the Fire Department Training Center on Jones Road. The move comes four years after REACH Air opened its Oceanside base in partnership with the city Fire Department.

The company initially shared helipad space at Oceanside Municipal Airport with Mercy Air. Plans were to begin renovations at the Jones Road site in 2015.

The land was well-suited for the planned development. It was fairly level and needed few modifications.

Over the past two years REACH Air developed 8,024 square feet of the 6.5-acre site for its operations. The site was graded, asphalt was laid and safety lights were installed.

An 1,870-square-foot trailer was moved on site to house crews. It contains three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a break room, a kitchen and a flight plan room.

The company was also required to meet state regulations to ensure safe takeoffs and landings. Safety requirements called for the installation of ground lights to mark the helipad, and beacon lights to alert pilots to the tops of neighboring buildings.

REACH Air holds an eight-year lease on the site. The company will pay the city $1.07 million over five years, including $156,000 annually to the Fire Department for program coordination.

The two agencies work closely together. Off-duty firefighters are hired as part-time employees by REACH Air to serve on the medical helicopter team, which consists of a pilot, a medical doctor and a flight nurse or paramedic.

There are numerous advantages to having city firefighter/paramedics on board. Their high skill level and knowledge of the area and ability to have cohesive communication between air and ground are invaluable.

The REACH Airbus EC-135 turbine engine helicopter adds a valuable resource to Fire Department efforts to protect life, property and the environment and reduce response times.

Oceanside also has eight fire stations that serve the 41-square-mile-city and surrounding areas.