ARCATA, Calif. (KIEM) – The McKinleyville Fire Station reopened this week while the Mad River Fire Station closed due to rotating brownouts. The plan was devised to ensure that no one community experiences a total station closure. Uri Driscoll of the Humboldt County Taxpayers League detailed an alternative idea.
“It is time to create or join forces with say Humboldt Bay Fire and start developing a more county-wide dispatch and fire response system,” Driscoll said.
According to Fire Chief Justin McDonald, the district has already dropped boundaries with other agencies and considered a similar plan.
“When you are kind of broke like we are, it is hard to merge into a system. If the times were different, the mergers may be a future thing down the road,” McDonald said.
Since April 1, the Arcata Fire District has been operating on a rotational brownout system. A different station closes every eight days. If Measure F is passed, the third station would reopen. It would also begin the process of replacing 15-year-old fire engines and restore eight vacant firefighter positions. The Humboldt County Taxpayers League believes some restructuring could alleviate the problem.
“The pay structure is also kind of top heavy,” Driscoll said. “There’s more captains and chiefs than there are actual firefighters. The captains and chiefs are paid considerably more than the national average.”
The district has not seen a large increase in funding since 2006. If Measure F passes, relief would not be seen until 2022.
“We can’t do hiring, we can’t do anything like that until we start to receive that tax money, so it is kind of a long range plan,” McDonald said.