Volunteer fire departments provide a vital service
June 19, 2013So I lost most of my house to a structure fire Tuesday night while I was trying to put out a newspaper.
It's sort of the ultimate "I have good news and I have bad news," rotten joke. The bad news is that most of my possessions burned. The good news is that I salvaged some clothes and now have the smoking jacket I always wanted. Well, actually the good news is that the Palomar Mountain Volunteer Fire Department arrived very quickly and was able to save most of my house. So, if there is a chance of rebuilding the original structure, I owe it to the friends and neighbors who make up the volunteer fire department.
The volunteers showed up at my cabin in the woods about ten minutes from the time that the call was made. They deployed quickly and had the fire under control within minutes. Although my house was damaged, the structure remains and, probably more importantly from my neighbors' standpoint, the blaze was restricted to a small area and didn't threaten any other structures.
I'm living proof that Cal Fire and the County Fire Authority's plans to subordinate all volunteer fire departments in the county as well as to put as many fire protection district under their thumb as possible is woefully wrongheaded. CFA is being a bully and is unbending in its requirements that the people it chooses will be allowed to serve on volunteer departments and that the staffing it mandates will be carried out—without compromise. If the CFA's plans for the Palomar department had been carried out, my house would probably now be a pile of rubble. One size does not fit all.
Wherever the CFA has implemented its takeover of volunteer fire departments, staffing levels have gone down. The basic idea is that for the greater good, staffing is spread out so that firefighters are provided to areas that haven't been able to get any by taking staffing from existing fire departments.
That's wonderful if you belong to one of those communities that never set up a volunteer department. But if your community did start such a department your service may be degraded.
Keep in mind that the volunteer fire departments were created by their communities because at that time the County had decided that it didn't want to provide fire service to the Backcountry. Keep in mind too that the volunteer departments are made up of people who WANT to serve their communities. Those communities have in some instances voted to tax themselves extra in order to provide for manpower to deal with local fires. They DID NOT tax themselves in order to provide fire service for their neighbors.
At my fire the Palomar volunteers showed up a long time before the Cal Fire firefighters did—and if it had depended on Cal Fire alone my house would be a pile of cinders.
The CFA should back off from trying to force small fire departments to knuckle under to its will and let them continue to provide the service that they have been providing for many years. Let the communities of the Backcountry continue to contribute towards their own safety.