Friday, July 9, 2010

The Island

A big fuss is going on in northern California. A brush fire burned for almost five days, burning over five hundred acres and destroying five homes. Numerous cars were lost as was other property. Not a large fire by California standards, where hundreds of homes are lost each year to wildfire. Why the fuss? Not one firefighter responded to the fire and the locals are pissed.

The fire was located on Bradford Island, which is located in the Sacramento Delta. Bradford Island does not lie within the boundaries of any fire department or fire district and therefore is not protected. Surrounding fire districts will respond to the island if there is a credible threat to life safety. Assessments of the fire were made by surrounding fire districts and it was determined that there was no significant risk to life. Therefore, no one came.

The local media, both print and broadcast have made a point to tell the world that no firefighters responded to the fire. The anti-firefighter corner of the populace is having a field day with this story. As usual, the media is only reporting part of the story, according to some local residents.

Property owners on Bradford Island have in the past voted down the opportunity to be protected by a neighboring fire district. They didn't want to pay for it. As a result, they are not protected. They don't have any police protection either.

The comments section on the story posted on a TV station web site is a mixed bag. The firefighter haters leave comments about how real heroes shouldn't observe boundaries. A lot of comments show no sympathy for island residents, as they knew they weren't protected and they didn't want to pay for protection.

Frankly, I agree with the latter. Why should island residents get service for free, when every resident in the district pays for it?

We have a similar situation in my home town. Hometown surrounds an unincorporated community on three sides. Hometown has offered to annex this area into the city  and provide fire, police and other services. Twice, the residents of the unincorporated area have voted not to come into Hometown.

The residents of the unincorporated area do not want the additional taxes, which are minimal by the way, nor do they want the additional codes and ordinances which would impact their lives. They might not be able to park junk cars on their lawns for example.

The unincorporated area does have fire and police protection, they receive it from the county. It's just that county fire engines literally drive past a Hometown fire station when they respond into this area. and a  second Hometown engine is closer to the area than the closest county engine as well.

Of course Hometown will respond to a call in the unincorporated area if a life safety risk is present or if requested through the mutual aid system. As a Hometown tax payer, I am OK with that. I just don't think I should subsidize fire protection for the unincorporated area.

I am quite sure that if the unincorporated are burns, the residents will raise hell with Hometown F.D. and the media will jump on board. I just hope someone will remember the two prior votes.

Maybe these are arguments for true regional fire protection, with no boundaries or borders. Between jurisdictional disputes and the cost of providing service, perhaps it should be looked at.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Dear Captain Schmoe,
    Just another, near-unbelievable example of false morality. These Island people cannot have it both ways.

    Even so, they have partly managed it. They are free-riders on an economic system when it comes to their own lives. They should be ashamed.

    Just, unbelievable. You either accept risk or you pay for risk reduction. That's the way it is . . . those idiots . . .
    Ann T.

  2. How would insurance work "down there" (the U.S.) if firefighters responded to Bradford Island and someone got hurt, or killed? Just curious.... That's why we have mutual aid agreements up here - to cover butts if something happens outside of their district but that's clearly written out.

  3. They don't have any police protection either.

    Ultimately, they would be 'protected' by the State police. Response time is unknown.

    I'm fine with the lack of police protection. While I'm not very civic minded, I'd pitch in and do the best I could if one of my neighbors needed help in a medical/law enforcement sort of way. The few times I've needed the police they have arrived well after the dust settled. I don't feel the same way about the fire department.

    I'm in Sylvania Township, Ohio and we have an excellent fire department. Anytime the fire department operating levy comes up, I'll vote for it and I'll encourage others to do the same. I do this for purely selfish interests, because if a fire gets started nearby it's only a matter of time before everything I own goes up and I'm left without a thing except a stack of insurance forms three inches thick. The fire department prevents this.

    Now, that said, the fire department is the only thing I want from civilization. Sylvania Township continues to be targeted by the city of Sylvania for annexation, and Township residents continue to vote against it. We don't want the taxes, the laws, the inferior police department (Township and City do not share the same police force, and the difference is night and day). We, the people living a freer life in the Township, want to be left alone.

    Twice, the residents of the unincorporated area have voted not to come into Hometown.

    Which is wise. Sure you don't live next door to me?

  4. You're right about the varying coverage. The first story I read on this, left me kind of upset. After some further reading, the FD's had a point. I'm all for helping our neighbors, and believe in handling the current emergency rather than the possible one, but what about the obligation those FD's have to their own citizens?

    We used to have a similar situation with unincorporated County pockets in our city, but have since gone to auto aid agreements (works out pretty well). It was a pretty slick move on the County's part, however. See, per state statute, they're the issuing authority for EMS licenses. They "updated" their EMS ordinance to require closest-unit aggrements in order to get an ALS or BLS license. Now they get their cake and eat it, too. Ughhh...politics.

  5. My husband recently retired after 36 years as Assistant Chief on our city's fire department. I worked there (where I met him) for one year SHORT of getting my pension. (I weep and wail every month) People living in the county always cry "foul" after a fire, blaming us for not responding. But they originally purchased in the county to avoid the taxes that would have brought our rescue to them immediately. Only later do they realize their home insurance policy was higher (due to lack of fire department response) than the extra taxes would have been.