June 26, 2013Ultimately, the decision whether to continue contracting fire service between the Valley Center Fire Protection District and Cal Fire was one of money and local control (see our story on A1).
Make that one issue, local control, since the County made a last minute Faustian offer to make up the money the district would lose—at least for this year, and maybe for several years.
Important to keep in mind is that the district has not made an irrevocable decision. If the contract with San Pasqual doesn't work out nothing stops VC from going hat in hand back to Cal Fire. I have no doubt that Cal Fire would accept VC back with open (and crushing) arms.
I have been accused by Cal Fire union president Randy Scales of being anti-union. I like Mr. Scales. He helped keep my house from burning down completely. I like, respect and admire most Cal Fire people I have met. However, when members of Cal Fire speak to the fireboard about this issue, we have to understand that they have one concern in mind: preserving Cal Fire union jobs. Valley Center's wellbeing is not uppermost in their thoughts.
Nothing wrong with that. But the concerns of the Cal Fire union are irrelevant to this decision. The people of Valley Center did not elect its representatives to run the district for the benefit of the firefighters. It elected them to run the district for the benefit of the residents.
The concerns of Cal Fire firefighters, unless they happen to live in Valley Center, and are thus property owners or taxpayers, are beside the point.
Ken Miller of the County Fire Authority made the choice pretty clear when he said that the County was not going to give any funds to fire districts that didn't play ball with the County's partner, Cal Fire. To do so would sabotage the County's efforts to create a regional fire response, he implied. Simply put: If you want the County's dime, you get County control too.
Board President Weaver Simonsen made it clear that he understands perfectly what the CFA is up to when he said, "In the contract it was clear that you were dictating to us."
Since the County has made it clear that the choice was their way or the highway, VCFPD's board chose the highway.
Correction: In last week's editorial I incorrectly stated that Cal Fire firefighters do not carry turnout gear for structure fires, only for wildfires. I was incorrect about that and wanted to set the record straight. Although Cal Fire's primary responsibility is wildfires, they do carry all the gear necessary to save homes. My apology for the mistake.