Community Celebrates Opening and Dedication of Valley’s First Emergency Operations Center

Fire Chief Jeff Willis, on behalf of Mountain Mutual Aid, congratulates the EOC's namesake, Lieutenant Colonel William Hartmann, who first envisioned a CAP facility that would also accommodate Bear Valley Search and Rescue.

Fire Chief Jeff Willis, on behalf of Mountain Mutual Aid, congratulates the EOC's namesake, Lieutenant Colonel William Hartmann, who first envisioned a CAP facility that would also accommodate Bear Valley Search and Rescue.

Thursday’s dedication of Big Bear Valley’s new Emergency Operations Center was an exciting day for members of Mountain Mutual Aid, who’d used the garage of the Big Bear City Fire Department to oversee emergency operations during 2003’s Old Fire, and members of the U.S. Air Force’s Civil Air Patrol Squadron 6750 which, per Commander Bruce Black, “As far as we know, we are now the only squadron in the country to have our own building.” The new facility at the Big Bear Airport, which has leased the land to CAP for $1 a year, was named in honor of Lieutenant Colonel William R. Hartmann, CAP’s Commander from 1999-2003, as, per the squadron’s Public Affairs Specialist Jim Gundred, “He is the driving force behind this building, he’s our motivator.”

Gundred shows off the volunteer wall of honor, which includes Miguel Santana, who volunteered every weekend for a year.

Gundred shows off the volunteer wall of honor, which includes Miguel Santana, who volunteered every weekend for a year.

The 3,500 square foot building–which includes large conference rooms; commercial kitchen and full bathroom to accommodate a days-long operation; computer and radio rooms, and 10 antennas to allow for each agency to communicate with their emergency responders; and a 30K natural gas back-up generator–was funded with individual donations of $189,000, in addition to fundraisers and community contributions of labor. “This is a great day for us,” Gundred raved. “We’ve been working on this building since June of 2004. It’s been all volunteers and donations of labor—no taxpayers dollars. I want to emphasize that this is a community effort. It’s amazing, over the years, how many people contributed.”

The EOC includes a memorial garden, honoring those who've served in the military. The Friends of the Disaster Center are selling personalized bricks, at $200 each, to assist in fundraising. Bricks of three lines, 13 characters each, can be purchased via CAP, P.O. Box 3120, Big Bear City 92314.

The EOC includes a memorial garden, honoring those who've served in the military. The Friends of the Disaster Center are selling personalized bricks, at $200 each, to assist in fundraising. Bricks of three lines, 13 characters each, can be purchased via CAP, P.O. Box 3120, Big Bear City 92314.

Many of those individuals joined Civil Air Patrol and Mountain Mutual Aid for the grand opening ceremony on November 19, during which time Lieutenant Colonel Hartmann did the honors of the ribbon cutting. Among those to address the crowd from the deck of the new, two-story building were Big Bear Lake Mayor Rick Herrick, with a congratulatory proclamation from the City; Big Bear City Community Services District President John Day, who said, “Thank God that it’s here”; former Airport General Manager Dick Lightner, who noted, “I’m happy to see this here, at the airport, where it belongs”; Mountain Mutual Aid VP and Big Bear City Fire Chief Jeff Willis, who said, “We are happy to have a facility that will meet our needs”; and the Big Bear Valley Historical Society’s Gloria Meade, who summed it up, “This is an historical event.”

The Civil Air Patrol Squadron 6750, well-represented here at the grand opening, will use the building for meetings and training of cadets, ages 12-21. For more information on the CAP cadets program, call Jim Gundred at 584-9195 or Bruce Black at 584-4120.

The Civil Air Patrol Squadron 6750, well-represented here at the grand opening, will use the building for meetings and training of cadets, ages 12-21. For more information on the CAP cadets program, call Jim Gundred at 584-9195 or Bruce Black at 584-4120.

Firefighting agencies, law enforcement personnel, government officials and volunteers came together for cake in the EOC's first floor conference room, following the dedication ceremony on Thursday afternoon.

Firefighting agencies, law enforcement personnel, government officials and volunteers came together for cake in the EOC's first floor conference room, following the dedication ceremony on Thursday afternoon.

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