$2M funding package brings new wildland engines to 7 Calif. FDs
10 new Type 6 fire engines will replace older rigs in Humboldt and Mendocino counties
By Jackson Guilfoil
HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Calif. — Courtesy of state budget allocations, fire departments across southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino counties will receive 10 new fire trucks, replacing decades-old vehicles in the current fleet, one of which is 50-years-old.
The allocations were announced by North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire, who also said that nearly $6 million was earmarked for fire prevention throughout the region, with $982,287 specifically for Humboldt County to be doled out via grants. Most of the fire departments in Humboldt County's rural regions are small and staffed by volunteers.
"The state has never invested so heavily in equipment upgrades in the SoHum, Northern Mendocino region benefiting local fire departments and it comes on the heels of unprecedented cooperation between 15 fire districts and departments throughout Northern Mendocino and Southern Humboldt with us for over a year to develop a regional wildfire response plan," McGuire said.
The new fire engines — expected to be delivered and used during next year's fire season, according to Shelter Cove Fire Chief Nick Pape — are "type-six" vehicles, meaning they can access the rural backroads and pathways ubiquitous throughout the region. The trucks will go to the Briceland, Whitethorn, Garberville, Palo Verde, Telegraph Ridge, Piercy and Leggett volunteer fire departments.
Pape said the new trucks would allow firefighters to put out small fires before they balloon into the gigantic, expensive infernos the state spends millions annually fighting.
"Type sixes are perfect for keeping fires small," Pape said. "Every large fire starts with a small fire, and if we can put the fires at about a quarter acre, we don't need to spend millions and millions of dollars on these million-acre fires to put them out."
Pape added the trucks might be utilized for a range of public safety purposes, including rescues and medical responses.
This year has seen a slow start to California's fire season, especially in the north. Torrential downpours are part of the reason, but Pape noted that vegetation is beginning to dry out, providing fuel to potential blazes.
The trucks were bundled together in a $2 million package headed to the fire departments, funds which would not have come from Humboldt County this year, as the county is facing a $17.7 million fiscal deficit.
"I think that's one of the bigger frustrations when it comes to volunteer fire departments: fire districts in our region, the equipment is incredibly expensive and the money is hard to come by and that is why this investment is so critical," McGuire said.