The Arcata Fire District covers 62 square miles, protecting 37,000 people in the five communities of McKinleyville, Manila, Bayside, Jacoby Creek and Arcata.
Three years ago, I joined the Fire District Board of Directors. Nicole Johnson and Rene Campbell are the directors representing the people in the areas of North and South McKinleyville. I along with Elena David represent the people in the areas of North and South Arcata, and David Rosen represents the people in the areas of Bayside, Jacoby Creek and Manila.
As your elected representatives, it’s our job to oversee the functions of the Fire District on behalf of the citizens who reside and work in the District. Our directors spend enormous amounts of time following and tracking the Fire District operation and budget, because we know most citizens don’t have the time to follow so many complex issues on their own.
Serving on the Board of Directors is a job of great public trust that I am honored to do in service for our community.
Here are some important facts I have learned while serving on the Board of Directors of our Fire District:
1. The Fire District does not receive any funding from the City of Arcata or the County of Humboldt.
2. Under California law, the Fire District must be funded by property taxes. The District is not allowed to charge sales taxes. So using a sales tax to fund the Fire District is NOT an option.
3. The Fire District can’t pay its bills because it’s been 14 years since the last tax increase. I must ask the question; who can afford to pay bills in 2020 with what they earned in 2006?
4. The loss of 8 firefighter positions has forced rotating closures of the District’s three fire stations. This has created terrible conditions for the safety of our firefighters and the public safety of our community.
5. I want to assure my fellow citizens that our Fire District has made every budget reduction imaginable. There is nothing more to cut.
6. When responding to emergencies such as first responder medical aid calls or structure fires, a few minutes can make a huge difference in saving lives and property. That is why fire stations are always spaced apart to ensure the quickest responses possible.
7. Cal Fire often sends its Humboldt-based fire engines and personnel to fight fires in other parts of the state. That leaves local fire departments as the only resources available for emergencies that happen here.
8. Measure F will enable the District to restore eight firefighter positions needed to re-open all three fire stations. Measure F will also enable the District to put aside money for a vehicle replacement fund. The District can save a lot of taxpayer money by reducing or eliminating bank loans for replacement fire engines that cost between $600,000 and $800,000 each.
9. Measure F can only pass with YES votes from a two-thirds majority of the voters. That is over 66 percent of the votes! So every single YES vote is extremely important for the successful passage.
10.Measure F has a built-in 10-year “Sunset Clause.” That means if Measure F receives enough votes to pass, the voters will have to decide again in 2030 if Measure F should be renewed or not.
The Fire District has a long-established tradition of providing outstanding high-quality fire protection and public safety services to our community. But we can’t “kick the can down the road” anymore. If Measure F fails to pass, there will only be extremely bad options for our Board of Directors to deal with. This is not a drill: If Measure F does not pass, we will end up with a very inadequate fire department that will be short-staffed and unable to properly respond to the public safety needs of our five communities.
As I write this message the air is filled with smoke from yet another summer of devastating fires. I am seriously worried about the future of fire protection and emergency services in our District. I know with fire stations currently being closed, we don’t have enough firefighters on duty to adequately respond to the volume and scope of 911 calls that are regularly received.
For the public safety of our five communities, we simply must keep all three fire stations open. Please join me in voting YES for Measure F.
For more detailed information, please visit yesonfiref.org.
Randy Mendosa has worked with local emergency service / first responder agencies for 42 years. He currently serves on the Arcata Fire District Board of Directors, representing Division 3 which covers North Arcata.