March 29, 2007, Bieber CA.
Copyright 2007 BigValleyNews
The people within the Big Valley Fire Protection distict were invited to a meeting to disclose the upcoming financial problems of the district.
Although the district is finacially solvent at this time it is anticipated that it will have a shortfall of about $30,000 by next year. The meeting was held both to inform people of the problem and to solicit ideas from concerned citizens on how to avoid additional tax burdens being instituted.
The town of Bieber presently has a very favorable insurance rating, meaning our fire insurance rates are low. Any reduction of the capabilities of the fire department would likely raise insurance rates by as much as 40%.
The problems of volunteer fire departments in small communities are universal and growing. State mandated training requirements for fire fighters are growing and the number of hours per year required for volunteers to remain qualified are growing. The required number of training hours per year is now more than 200 hours. This is a lot of time to ask a non paid volunteer to dedicate.
Insurance costs for fire fighters are not going down. The demographics for Bieber are changing as more and more people are having to find work far from town where they can't respond in an emergency. Gone are the days when the old lumber mill was a resource for many young able bodied men who could respond in a matter of minutes. The extra commuting time to work is an added strain on volunteers which discourages able bodies from donating their time.
Some discussion occurred about reducing medical call responses by Bieber Fire in order to reduce operating costs. The overwhelming feelings of both the community and the fire department was that medical responses will continue if at all possible, however the need for volunteer firefighters and first responders was recognized. Chief John Capen advised that within a month or two, a thorough 40 hour first responder class will happen in Bieber. The class will be taught by Dan Bouse of Adin. Anybody who wishes to try out as a volunteer fireman should contact Chief Capen at 530 294-5104. If you are an able bodied man or woman, and are willing to donate your time to a service which is very necessary to the community, you are urged to apply.
Recognizing the problems of running an all volunteer department, a decision was made at this meeting to establish a time honored tradition of a Fire Auxiliary to help out the district. The idea of an auxiliary brings to mind a vision of old ladies who put on a bake sale once a year and contribute a small amount of money to the fire department. The fact is that an auxiliary can and will do much more. The Big Valley Community has historically shown extraordinary dedication to supporting local needs without outside "government" help. Even though a crab feed or periodic pancake breakfast can only raise a few thousand dollars, this can amount to 10 or 20 percent of the budget. In addition, an auxiliary can also contribute in very useful services.
There is much more to running a fire department than fighting fires and responding to medical emergencies. There are necessary mundane tasks such as washing fire equipment after a fire, cleaning the fire house and lots of absolutely necessary clerical and record keeping tasks. There are many incidences of responses to an outside district where money will be reembursed, but let's face it, the mere filling out of necessary forms and paper work can not or will not get done in a timely manner. Local clerical or management talent could be used by the auxiliary to do these tasks freeing actual emergency responders from this dull task. If fire fighters are called upon to fight fires and get help from others with these talents, it will prevent them from becoming burned out (pun not intended) and they will more likely remain on the force for the years to come. Even youngsters can assist by washing fire trucks. What a thrill, I wish I got to wash a real truck when I was a kid.
Public outreach in community education about fire safety and offering assistance to residents in brush cleaning to mitigate fire danger is another service an auxiliary can provide. Low cost fire extinguisher can be provided along with training on their use. Fundamental first aid education can be offered by qualified citizens. All this takes is residents with organizational skills and an agency which will support them. An active fire auxiliary can do far more than token support of a department.
These simple activities may not reduce our fire insurance rates but they certainly won't hurt, and they may even save a house from being burned down.
Those interested in helping with the auxiliary can call Jody Kildow at 530 294-5104. If you are willing to do anything from organizing events to washing fire trucks, give her a call.