The Southern Humboldt Fire Chiefs met at the Garberville CDF station on Monday, January 23. Louis Iglesias chaired the meeting, which was also attended by Fortuna CDF Unit Chief Tom Osipowich.

The agenda ranged over a variety of topics, including the best way to recharge oxygen tanks, the distribution of donated turnouts, and firefighter training.

The Training Committee, which met immediately before the chiefs, reported that a winter training workshop has been scheduled for February 11 and 12, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will take place at South Fork High School in the cafeteria, and lunch will be catered by the South Fork Culinary Club. They are hoping for an attendance of 50 each day. A penalty will be imposed for late arrivals.

Volunteer Fire Department certification training for Southern Humboldt is in the process of being scheduled. The training will take about a year, with training sessions scheduled to take place one or two times a month. Some portions of the training may be eligible for Title III reimbursement.

There was a discussion as to how to streamline the process of claiming reimbursement for Title III money, such as having a single department sponsor training events, or hiring a paid coordinator.

Ospowich said that his office was seeking volunteers with swift water rescue certification for the annual Paddle to Headwaters event, scheduled to take place this year the first two days of April. The course is from Dyerville to River Lodge in Fortuna. There was discussion as to who might qualify for such a team and whether equipment would be available.

The Fire Safe Council has received a BLM grant of $38,000 for developing a more extensive fire plan. The plan will build on the County Fire Plan but be specific to Southern Humboldt. More funding for an Elk Ridge fuel break is due by May. The Council is coordinating its efforts with The Sudden Oak Death Project team, which is carrying out remedial thinning and brush removal at infected sites in Salmon Creek and Jay Smith Road near Miranda.

A new 100-foot clearance rule, which is now being implemented by the Board of Forestry, came up for discussion as well. Osipowich said that the details are being worked out as to just how much clearing is needed to provide a 100-foot defensible space around a dwelling. He said the law was enacted without consultation with CDF and that there are still some gray areas in the implementation. Some demonstration projects are planned on private property, he said, to demonstrate what the clearance will look like.

The Chiefs also discussed the need for written mutual aid agreements to address issues of liability. Agencies and VFDs have a history of cooperation and mutual assistance, but things have evolved to the point where written agreements need to be on file. A variety of sample agreements will be studied and the item will be on the next agenda.

Iglesias reported that the air compressor stored at the CDF station will need to be moved to a new location soon. During the recent storms the bluff behind the storage shed in which the compressor is housed began to move. He said a geologist had investigated the site and determined that the building is in danger. Chief Kent Scown said that he thought he might be able to house it in the Garberville Fire Station.

The new numbering system required by Homeland Security is in place. Each VFD was issued a block of numbers and they are now transitioning to using the new numbers rather than their old numbers. There still seems to be some confusion as to how to distinguish northern and southern companies.

Iglesias also said that the Weott VFD got to roll its brand new truck while responding to an accident. It was a satisfying outing in which the vehicle performed to perfection.

On the subject of accidents, Palo Verde Chief Joel Ficklin said that the increased traffic on Bell Springs Road because of the closure of U.S. 101 at Confusion Hill had resulted in numerous unreported accidents, including two head-on collisions and two vehicles going over an embankment. Fortunately, injuries have been minor. The road is supposed to be restricted to local traffic only. Ficklin said that the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office has been sending patrol cars out on Bell Springs Road to check identification and is citing non-residents for using the road. He said also that the increased traffic has caused more deterioration in the condition of the road.

Lastly, it was announced that the Shelter Cove Fire Department is about to receive a new jet ski, a boat, and an ambulance.

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