Fire service restoration likely in January 2021

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE/ARCATA – Because voters approved Measure F on Election Day, Nov. 3, the Arcata Fire District says it will eventually be able to keep all three of its stations open 24/7. However, the process will take time.

“The most important point to reiterate is that the process of reopening the third station will take time and that the district will not see the income from Measure F until January 2022,” stated AFD Fire Chief Justin McDonald in a report to the AFD Board of Directors at its Nov. 10 meeting. “We will need to endure one more fiscal cycle at the current level of funding, which means we remain at the current level of on duty staffing of two stations.”

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AFD staff developed a five-year plan for Measure F, which calls for the hiring of firefighters to fill  eight vacant positions. The goal would be to have all three station permanently open starting in January 2022.

In order to balance its budget, the district closed one of its stations on a rotating basis in March, after Measure R was narrowly defeated, with 63.76 percent of voters supporting the measure and 36.24 opposing it. The measure needed a super majority vote of at least 66.67 percent to pass.

Leading up to the Nov. 3 election, supporters of the fire district mounted a more robust campaign, with signs, advertising, letters to the editor and presentations to clubs. The effort paid off.

 Measure F received 10,355 yes votes, or 75.61 percent, and 3,341 no votes, or 24.39 percent, according to the first post election count update. When all the counting is done, the numbers may change, but it’s unlikely the results would change. 

“While it is likely that the final tally will change as the final ballots are received and counted, it is speculative to say that the total would drop below the 2/3rds approval requirement and doubtful that we would see an 8.75 point drop in the certified numbers,” stated McDonald. “For reference, with Measure R, the affirmative votes went up by 3.68 points from the election night final to the certified final count.”

At the Nov. 10 AFD board meeting, Vice President Randy Mendosa asked if there was a way to open all three stations up sooner than January 2022.

Director David Rosen said that the issue should be forwarded to the district’s Finance Committee, which can then report back to the full board with its findings.

The district’s three stations include the Downtown Arcata Station at 631 Ninth St., the Mad River Station at 3235 Janes Rd. and the McKinleyville Station and District Headquarters at 2149 Central Ave.

Measure F is also intended to help pay for vehicle and equipment replacement and  to replenish district reserve funds. Below are some of the actions included in the five-year plan:

Fiscal year 2021-22

Hire and train five firefighters, open all stations and set aside $200,000 for equipment and vehicle replacement fund.

Fiscal year 2022-23

Hire and train three firefighters, replace high-mileage command vehicle and set aside $200,000 for equipment and vehicle replacement fund.

Fiscal year 2023-24

Replace high-mileage fire engine and set aside $200,000 for equipment and vehicle replacement fund.

Fiscal year 2024-25

Update outdated radio equipment and set aside $200,000 for equipment and vehicle replacement fund.

Fiscal year 2025-26

Set aside $200,000 for equipment and vehicle replacement fund.



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