HESPERIA -- Without a local trauma center, High Desert residents have long depended on services from air ambulance companies to take patients with immediate care needs to hospitals down the hill.
Mercy Air emerged as the contract company local safety officials use for such transport, and with the opening of Mercy Air Base 22 at the Hesperia Airport on Saturday, the company doubled its desert resources, said Mercy Air Program Director Roy Cox.
"I think it is going to help out tremendously," Cox said. "With two helicopters stationed 24/7 in the High Desert, we have double the assets we had before and it will cut down on our call times."
The heli-pad at Southern California Logistics Airport was formerly the only Mercy Air base in the Victor Valley, and Cox said that helicopters from Rancho Cucamonga or Mojave were often called upon, adding an additional 15 to 30 minutes to the response time off the bat. In an emergency situation, those numbers could be the difference between life and death.
By spacing the two bases apart, Cox said that call times especially to Hesperia and Apple Valley should be dramatically reduced.
"There was a need and we saw it, so we filled that gap," said Bill Jones, a Mercy Air paramedic crew member and Business Development Coordinator for the company.
Jones spearheaded a barbecue at their newly renovated base at the Hesperia Airport Saturday with about 250 people in attendance, including local rescue workers, hospital staff, firefighters law enforcement and pilots.
The leased space was stuccoed, remodeled and painted, prior to the opening. The base has sleeping quarters, a common room, a computer center and a kitchen for the four pilots and six crew members who live at the base on a rotating basis, Jones said.
"There seems to be a need that's so great for the helicopter in the High Desert," Jones said. "We opened (Saturday) and voila, we're already busy."