EDH Fire eyes another big change
A joint meeting of the El Dorado Hills and Rescue fire boards on Oct. 6 gave El Dorado Hills residents a detailed overview of the potential annexation of Rescue Fire Protection District.
Chief Roberts began by recognizing that change is difficult. Even though they are neighbors, the two districts have different cultures and levels of funding. His presentation relied on the “Fire and Emergency Services Study for the El Dorado LAFCO” dated May 13, 2010 and done by Citygate Associates Inc. The three-volume study is available on edhfire.com.
The considerations fall into two categories: operational and financial. Another way to look at them is individual district vs. systemwide.
Emergency services are rated by speed and weight. Speed is critical to fight fires. Every minute of delay results in the escalation of the fire. If a unit is close, it may be able to respond early and control the fire with one engine. As the minutes tick by, more and more resources are required. Weight refers to the multiple units called in response to significant emergencies. The Citygate study found that fire stations are well located for speed of attack; however, the region has a staffing problem per unit which creates a weight of attack problem. There are often not enough firefighters or volunteers to staff the units.
Ambulance service is the responsibility of El Dorado County. The issues of speed and weight apply to medical responses as well as firefighting.
The history of funding fire districts demonstrates the difficulties of adapting political jurisdictions to changing times. In most areas outside large cities, where fire and ambulance services are part of the municipal government, most fire districts are special districts, like water and schools. The services are paid for by the people served in the district. As costs rise for maintaining and replacing equipment and buildings, and as volunteers are being replaced by professional firefighter/paramedics, small districts are increasingly unable to sustain services.