North county fire services
EDITOR: Whether you live on the unincorporated side of Fitch Mountain as I do or downwind of us in the City of Healdsburg, the Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District (NSCFPD) annexation is important to you.
Because Fitch Mountain is not part of a fire district, our fire and medical response is provided by Healdsburg Fire through a contract with the county. This is paid for with about 30% of the property taxes that we pay specifically for fire services. With the remaining 70% the county provides little in the way of effective fire prevention out here. So, Fitch Mountain residents and our COPE organization have tried to fill the gap. Last year we acquired PG&E funding to ensure that North and South Fitch Mountain Roads were clear of encroaching vegetation. Our water customers paid to have our three redwood water tanks cleared of encroaching broom and overhanging trees. The NSCFPD Fuels Crew did this work for us. Unfortunately, most of that other 70% of our taxes is spent elsewhere in the County.
The County says it wants to get out of the fire service. Fire district annexations are encouraged. All previous consolidations (think Sonoma County Fire District) have returned all fire taxes to the annexing district. Supervisor Gore has worked very hard for us, but he has only one vote. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is offering the Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District 1) less than the full return of our taxes and 2) some of the funds they offer come from revenues that are difficult to predict year to year such as TOT and Prop 172 funds and that are also subject to the political priorities of future Boards of Supervisors. NSCFPD cannot hire staff, lease equipment, acquire insurance or seek financing without a secure and fully committed source of funds. And it would not be fair to their existing constituents for the NSCFPD board to accept a deal that could jeopardize the district’s ability to continue to fully protect them.
People joke (I hope they’re joking) that Fitch Mountain will one day go off like a Roman candle spewing embers over Healdsburg and points south. Let’s not let that happen. Let the board of supervisors know they need to get out of the fire service and play fair.