BARSTOW New weight restrictions on the First Avenue bridge mean that the Barstow Fire Protection District could take up to five minutes longer to respond to calls on the north side of the city.

City staff found last October that urgent bridge repairs that Caltrans notified them about in 2003 had never been completed. The city completed repairs to the damaged structural column and brace last year and discovered another broken beam during its weekly inspections earlier this year.

Although the cause of the bridge failure is yet to be determined, the city has added weight limit signs before the bridge to warn drivers of heavy vehicles to take alternate routes in an effort to prevent further damage.

The BFPD's fire engine at an estimated 15 to 25 tons is too heavy to drive over the bridge and has been taking alternate routes since the weight limit signs went up, said Fire District Chief Darrell Jauss. The fire district personnel have been trained in the quickest routes to get to the north end of the city, said Jauss. The West Main station normally takes the new Highway 58 to get to the north end, while the Barstow station takes the Yucca Avenue bridge or Interstate 15 to Old Highway 58.

The detours can lead to an added four to five minute response time, depending on where the call is, said Jauss. He said the fire district has been working with the city to find different alternatives until a new bridge is built.

"In a medical situation or a fire, seconds count," said Jauss.

Jauss said that he did not wish to reveal all of the alternatives until it had been more thoroughly discussed with the city, but said one option would be to use the lighter paramedic vehicle which meets the weight requirement for medical calls in the north part of the city. The option would require more staffing and might mean a restructuring of the department.

"If we take that person off the fire engine, there would be less people to respond to a fire," said Jauss.

Along with the weight restrictions, the First Avenue bridge will soon have at least one lane closed in order to complete further urgent repairs and may have to be completely closed for a short time, said City Engineer Nick Nichols at the Monday City Council meeting. The public will be notified when the bridge closures will take place.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com