Work runs hot and cold for Cal Tahoe ambulance service |

Work runs hot and cold for Cal Tahoe ambulance service

Gregory Crofton

After 14 hours of quiet, Cal Tahoe, the new ambulance service, was slammed with three medical aid calls on Saturday, its first day in operation.

Cal Tahoe passed the test. It sped to each call within minutes, something the former service, Lake Tahoe Ambulance, could not have accomplished.

LTA had two ambulances on call, Cal Tahoe has three. To respond to the third call, LTA would have had to request an ambulance from Nevada to provide mutual aid.

On Saturday, the rush began at 1:41 p.m. when an ambulance from Station 3, at the “Y,” rolled to treat a unresponsive man at a condominium on Emerald Bay Road. It arrived at 1:44 p.m.

The next call came at 1:47 p.m. for a person in the area of Al Tahoe Boulevard who suffered some trauma and lost consciousness. An ambulance left from Station 1, at Ski Run Boulevard and Pioneer Trail, arriving at 1:53 p.m.

With the two ambulances stationed at South Lake Tahoe Fire in use, Lake Valley Fire sent its ambulance to Station 3 to provide coverage if another call came.

It did at 2:04 p.m. An elderly woman needed treatment at Cold Creek Trail on Montgomery Estates.

By then, Lake Valley’s crew was en route to South Lake Tahoe. They got to the call in eight minutes.

“Ordinarily that call would be serviced with mutual aid from Nevada, which would have taken 20 minutes,” said Lake Valley Fire Chief Brian Schafer.

Schafer said he believes Cal Tahoe will consistently post quicker ambulance response times, particularly out in the county.

“They were almost always getting toward the 10-minute mark,” Schafer said. “Now it’s two, three and four minutes, something we’ve never enjoyed in our community (Meyers).”

From South Lake Tahoe Fire’s perspective, the transition to Cal Tahoe from LTA, the company that served South Shore since 1972, went smoothly. The most challenging aspect was all the paperwork to complete before the clock struck midnight Aug. 31 and Cal Tahoe went into operation.

“It was a tremendous effort to get all the documents in place and have all the various boards meet to sign off on them,” said South Lake Tahoe Fire Division Chief Michael Chandler. “The calls are the easiest part, we know how to do it. It was anti-climatic at midnight. We’re looking at each other like ‘Well, OK.'”

Cal Tahoe hired six of its 12 new paramedics from LTA. Lake Valley Fire and South Lake Tahoe Fire already had five paramedics on staff between the two agencies.

To get off the ground, Cal Tahoe is using five loaner ambulances. Two are being borrowed from North Tahoe Fire, which is part of Cal Tahoe and its administrative hub.

Cal Tahoe has three new ambulances on order that should be in place by late October.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.