Arcata Fire District: Get to know your local fire service

How well do you know your local fire department? Today the Arcata Fire District extends from Arcata, north to Clam Beach, west to Manila and the Samoa Bridge, south to Indianola cutoff, and east to Fickle Hill and Jacoby Creek roads for approximately three miles.

The Arcata Fire District is comprised of three fire stations – Arcata, Mad River and the Mckinleyville Headquarters Station. There are presently 22 highly-trained and experienced career staff, along with 24 volunteer firefighters and logistics personnel.

The district is led by Chief Justin McDonald, three battalion chiefs and 18 captains and firefighters that staff the three stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Each station is staffed with two career firefighters, so there are 6 qualified emergency personnel ready to respond to all fire, medical calls, traffic accidents or various other emergencies across the district. The district also provides mutual aid across the county or state when needed.

As you learn about the existing district staffing, did you know there has been an organized volunteer fire department in Arcata since 1884? That’s 134 years of community members dedicating themselves to fighting fires in and around Arcata.

Those early volunteers were local businessmen and craftsmen committed to responding to a fire call. The first paid employee, a fire chief, wasn’t until 1953.

With growth north of Arcata and quicker response times required, in 1960 the McKinleyville Station was opened and staffed around the clock with one career firefighter.

In 1975, the Mad River Station opened and was staffed 24 hours per day with one firefighter. The Arcata Station remained volunteer only response. District staffing remained this way for 31 years, until 2006, when six additional career firefighters were hired, increasing staffing at the McKinleyville and Mad River stations to two firefighters around the clock.

It wasn’t until 2012, and only with obtaining a federal grant, that the district was able to hire three additional career firefighters to finally staff the downtown Arcata Station.

The volunteer staffing support continues, but due to changes in laws, OSHA requirements, time commitment and other limitations, volunteer recruitment has become difficult.

As the district call volume increased and the commitment to the communities’ expectations have grown, the ability of a solely volunteer response became impossible. Below represents the locations of District responses in July 2018.

• Arcata – 137

• McKinleyville – 102

• Manila – 6

• HSU – 2

• Bayside – 8

• Out of District – 15





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