OFD Safe Haven Fire Station Receives 1-Day-Old Infant

November 13, 2010. Press Release Battalion Chief Rob Dunham: At approximately 0900 this morning, Fire Engineer Rick Varey went to the door of Fire Station #5 at 4841 North River Road, Oceanside, CA to answer the door bell. This usually happens a couple times a day whereas someone from the community is looking for an address, wants to know how to get a copy of a report, or to use the telephone because their car has run out of gas. Common activities that occur every day at fire station in the city. Occasionally, someone come to the station in need of emergency medical assistance or to report a fire or an accident. But today would be different.

When Fire Engineer Varey opened the door he was greeted by a woman in her 20’s wearing a blood smeared shirt and sweat pants holding a newly born infant baby boy wrapped in a towel. She then said; “I’d like to surrender my baby.”

Engineer Varey invited the woman in and was met by the rest of the stations crew, Fire Captain Phil Cotton and Firefighter/Paramedic Rich Molina in the apparatus bay. Tentative, she would only enter the station a few feet and refused to take a chair offered to her. “She just kept saying; “Take the baby, take the baby”, said Captain Cotton.

The firefighters took custody of the infant and began warming him and suctioned his airway to clear some mucus still present from the birth. Captain Cotton asked if the woman needed medical assistance and tried to gather some medical and family history on the child, but, what was clearly the infant’s mother, refused to answer any questions.

“We try to get the parent or guardian surrendering the infant to give us some medical and family history on the child which becomes important if the child needs to be treated for a medical condition or is later adopted,” said Battalion Chief Rob Dunham.

Oceanside Police Officer Angela Guerra happened to be in the station sitting at a computer completing some reports when the baby was brought in. “ She also tried to gather some basic information about the baby, but the new mother was not having any of it,” said Dunham.

“Within a matter of seconds after handing Captain Cotton her child she left the station, climbed back into her car and drove away,” said Dunham.

In December 2007 the San Diego County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution authorizing fire stations that are staffed full time to be designated as Safe Haven Sites. In 2007, the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association voted unanimously to make all fire stations that are staffed full time Safe Haven Sites under the Safely Surrendered Baby Law.

All designated fire stations display the Safe Haven Site sign and a smaller sign with instructions in case the firefighters are not in quarters.

The law is intended to spare the life of an infant by encouraging parents or persons with lawful custody to safely surrender an infant at a “safe surrender site” within 72 hours of the child’s birth rather than abandoning them in an unsafe location. In October 2005, Governor Schwarzenegger signed legislation extending the SSB Law permanently, effective January 1, 2006.

“All fire stations in the County keep a specially assembled ‘Safe Surrender’ packet on hand in the event of surrender,” said Battalion Chief Dunham. “The mother or parent is asked to provide basic information on the child, or at the very least, take the packet with them which can be completed and mailed later.” “The kit includes a wrist band with a unique identifying number matching a numbered wrist band placed on the child at the time of surrender so that, in the event a parent or legal guardian were to change their mind, the two can be verifiably matched to each other. A parent or legal guardian has 14-days days to contact the County Department of Child Protection Service to reclaim their child,” said Dunham.

“Although being a little cold, the infant looked to be healthy and in good shape,” Dunham said.

“The infant was transported by Oceanside Fire department Paramedic ambulance to Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside for evaluation where he will remain until County Child Protective Services takes custody,” Dunham said.