A parcel tax will create a sustainable and dedicated source of revenue
to enhance public safety, decrease response times, replace aging fire engines
and equipment, and better serve the residents of our districts.
Aug 21, 2019
By Bill Bullard
There are important ballot measures coming to you this fall Gold Ridge, Graton, and Occidental. We need your support and participation to ensure the future of the West County fire services. Sonoma County fire departments are undergoing significant changes with some failing and others combining to become sustainable; it was time for our West County fire board directors to make some hard decisions to ensure the safety of our residents. Volunteer numbers are dwindling while emergency calls climb. Most volunteers no longer work in their fire districts or cannot leave work causing further day time staffing challenges. Other volunteers cannot afford to live in the fire districts, further reducing available firefighters.
Today – In our local service area,there are 4 career firefighters on-duty and ready to respond within 60-90 seconds of a call for help; between Occidental (0), Camp Meeker (0), Graton (0), Sebastopol (0), Gold Ridge-Twin Hills (2), Bodega (0), Gold Ridge-Freestone (0), Valley Ford (0), and Gold Ridge-Hessel (2). We are understaffed to respond quickly to day-to-day emergencies, much less major disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, and forest fires like the 2017 Tubbs Fire that destroyed 5,800 homes and took 23 lives.
Needs – Gold Ridge, Graton, and Occidental fire departments want to guarantee 2-3 firefighters are always at each fire station and ready to respond to emergencies. The needed staffing will also protect our community from the next wildland fire through increased prevention, staffing, and education.
Budget – There isn’t funding to hire the necessary and lifesaving staffing without your help.
Cooperation – Almost daily, we support each other. Whenever there are house and wildland fires, we respond with fire engines and firefighters to assist each other. In addition, we share water tenders to shuttle water due to our lack of hydrants in rural West County. This is all done using standardized hoses, fittings, equipment, techniques, and radio channels. We are coordinated through one dispatch center for all of Sonoma County. There is an excellent level of cooperation today across borders, and we continue to seek efficiencies and collaboration opportunities.
Consolidation – This is an option that our fire board directors considered. Through this step, challenged fire districts take on the parcel tax of another, healthier fire district. However, taxpayers do not get a vote to approve this new parcel tax. That was not acceptable to our respective board directors. This should be your decision and the money raised should remain local.
Sustainability – A parcel tax will create a sustainable and dedicated source of revenue to enhance public safety, decrease response times, replace aging fire engines and equipment, and better serve the residents of our districts. All the funding will remain local and dedicated to fire and emergency services use only; the County cannot take any money away from the fire districts. This type of community investment will ensure the optimum solution for the future of our fire protection districts.
Ballot – Depending where you live, your fire department is likely to be the only thing on your ballot during this special election in November. Please, please, please don’t assume this will pass without your help… We need your vote!
Gold Ridge Fire – Passing this parcel tax will bring staffing to 3 firefighters on duty per station, by adding a Paramedic position to avoid potentially deadly medical support delays. Gold Ridge will expand their community outreach and wildfire prevention programs.
Graton Fire – As the busiest, all-volunteer fire department in Sonoma County for the last decade, Graton needs to supplement volunteers with 2 career firefighters for a total of 3 firefighters at all times. This is the first ever parcel tax request for Graton.
Occidental Fire – Facing similar increasing call volumes and declining daytime volunteers, Occidental is requesting a parcel tax to support staffing with one career firefighter and one stipend firefighter.
*All three fire districts share goals of reducing response times, preventing forest fires, continuing our collaborative efforts across districts, and engaging the community for disaster preparedness and enhanced safety around wildfires.
Looking for more information? Check out your fire department’s website or Facebook page, attend town hall meetings, call your fire chief, or stop by the fire station… get your questions answered! Thanks for your great support for so many years!
Forestville Fire would like to remind its residents to GET PREPARED!
Fire season is upon us and the coming months are predicted to be intense with red flag warnings, planned power outages and the potential for fires high. We cannot stress enough how important it is to be prepared. Know how to shut off your pilot lights and the gas at the meter. Make an evacuation plan with family members and neighbors, and don’t forget to plan for your pets too. Have “go-bags” ready and stocked. In the event of a power outage cell towers may be down so plan accordingly, keep a ready supply of drinking water. We recommend you check out www.readyforwildfire.org the website has valuable information on how to prepare for wildfire.
Many communities in Forestville and around the County are starting neighborhood groups in order to prepare for disasters such as wildfires. If you are interested in starting a neighborhood group there are many great resources out there, one example is: http://sebastopolcert.org/map-your-neighborhood. We also have a community room available for groups to meet. To book the room or find out more information for your neighborhood please call the Fire Department on (707) 887-2212.
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