Coastal fire and rescue needs help
Timber Cove is a small community of 262 registered voters spread across 48 square miles of Sonoma County’s most rugged coastline. Our heavily wooded and steep terrain is known for its redwood forests and breathtaking landscapes. Although the Timber Cove Fire Protection District is a high risk forest fire area, we face many challenges and unmet needs in Sonoma County.
Much appreciated by the thousands of tourists and locals who appreciate our campsites, hotels and vacation rentals, our volunteer firefighters are often called upon for rescue and medical services.
Parks represent 48% of our territory, which reduces the taxable area served by the fire department. Nonetheless, those who use these public facilities receive free services, with volunteers on the road around the clock to clean up after accidents and drunk drivers as well as to rescue divers and kayakers. Our firefighters come out on stormy nights to clear Route 1 of fallen trees so that traffic can pass and to escort and ensure the free passage of ambulances.
Our fire department is struggling to make ends meet. Our once award winning fire station has a leaky roof, our equipment needs updating, our medical supplies are depleted due to constant demand. Any funding from Sonoma County is so minimal that it is embarrassing, if not downright outrageous.
Despite such stresses and institutional failures to support our services, our volunteers provide heroic service. In the Meyers Grade fire last year, our firefighters fought valiantly around the clock for days alongside volunteer firefighters and neighboring residents who provided their bulldozers to contain a fire that was dangerously close to breaking down. sweep west from Sonoma County to Guerneville.
Why don’t we get a fair share of the transitional occupancy tax collected in our neighborhood? Although about 43% of the tax comes primarily from unincorporated Western County areas like the Coast, Sonoma County distributes the proceeds primarily to urban constituents and for economic development and tourism. Why is the Timber Cove Fire District getting virtually no feedback when our needs are so great? Why, when we try to regroup with other nearby fire districts for more efficient service delivery, do we have to find funds for repairs, equipment and medical supplies for their fire station? Why hasn’t the meager but large allowance of $ 25 per call paid once to each volunteer been renewed by Sonoma County when it barely pays for gasoline?
Faced with these challenges, district voters dug deep and passed a $ 185 plot tax. Selfless, yes, but it only provides a small fraction of the firefighters’ needs.
We can assume that it is the small population and our lack of electoral influence that supports such marginalization. Of course, at first glance, this may be what politically minded supervisors see as important. Yet those same supervisors are voicing platitudes about preserving the Sonoma Coast with every election. The real test is their ability to recognize that the safety and well-being of this same rugged and beautiful coastline is in the hands of a fire department that is grossly underfunded and ignored.
It is high time to end this neglect and for concerned citizens who appreciate what we do to come forward in solidarity with our needs. We need wide recognition of the invaluable services provided by the Timber Cove Fire Protection District and their need to improve and maintain these services for all who enjoy the North Sonoma Coast.
Peter Schmidt is Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida. Ron Case is President of the Timber Cove Homes Association.
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