Rambling Jack: A radical scaleback of fire protection will follow if Measure F fails

Firefighters enter burning buildings to save lives and property. They pull hoses through wildfires to save our homes. The respond to medical emergencies and literally save lives. 

So how do we support these bona fide heroes of the fire district that serves McKinleyville, Arcata, Manila, Bayside and Jacoby Creek? How do we help the firefighters of the Arcata Fire Protection District, which is experiencing a financial shortfall?

Words of praise are not enough. It’s a hollow gesture to tell them how much you admire them while at the same time strangling the department of needed funding.

The district will have a property tax measure, Measure F, on the Nov. 3 ballot. It’s imperative that voters support the tax. If the tax passes, the district will hire staffing to keep all three stations opens. A small amount of money will be set aside for equipment replacement.

What happens if the measure fails to get the necessary two-thirds vote? Consider the following memo from Arcata Fire Chief Justin McDonald, which the Arcata Fire District Board of Directors was scheduled to review Tuesday night, Aug.11:

If Measure F fails

It is also prudent to discuss the possibility of the failure of Measure F. As was the case with the Measure R process, there needs to be a “what if” in the event the measure fails. 

The Board will need to balance the organization’s core mission with (more than ever) employee safety with regards to balancing the budget. The possibilities that have been identified as options are:

• Evaluate the possibility of consolidating firefighter staffing for the 62 square mile fire district into one central fire station and responding four firefighters from one station.

• Mission changes from “all risk” responses to “Fire and Rescue” response only.

• Evaluate firefighting tactics to only “go interior” for known rescue situations. All other fire as exteriorly fought.

• Eliminating “first responder” medical aid calls and only respond to immediate life threating situations. (Cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, and acute trauma).

• Eliminate specialized apparatus such as the ladder and rescue trucks, reserve engines, and other response vehicles. In addition to the maintenance costs, the District will no longer have the available staff to operate the specialty equipment.

• Renegotiate how mutual aid will be received. The District may not be able to provide mutual aid to our neighbors and therefore may not receive aid as needed. There may be a need to contract for “assistance by hire” from neighboring fire agencies.

• The District will have a dramatic need for volunteer firefighters in a period where attracting and retaining volunteers is next to impossible. Additionally, there will be no funding, staff or association with the ability to take on the rigid, expensive and lengthy recruitment process and training of volunteers.

• The District may see fit to terminate its contract for the rental of the Arcata Station, in order to save the monthly rent money the District pays to the AVFA. This would force the AVFA to default on their loan. Moreover, if we permanently lose a location of a station, we most likely will never get it back.


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