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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
June 23, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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June 23, 2010

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Page 9 Plumes County Grand Jury Report Fire Services Findings and Recommendations: Finding 1: There are no fire protection services for 4,631 (19%) parcels in Plumas County. You can't be guaranteed of any fire fighting response if you live outside of a Fire Protection District (FPD) or Community Services District (CSD). You may be billed for firefighting services if they are rendered (see table below). The 4,631 number is misleading. Each parcel could have many structures. Recommendation la: County government leaders must take immediate action to ensure the safety of its citizens. This Grand Jury does not presume to know exactly what action must be taken. However related Findings and Recommendations are cited below. Recommendation lb: Every homeowner should con- tact the nearest fire house and ask very specific ques- tions: will they come to your home to fight a fire and will they charge? Your house may be covered, but are your neighbors'? Their fire can quickly become yours! Communities outside of Fire Protection Districts Almenor Basin/North County Area • Warner Valley • Canyon Dam • Humbug Valley • Feather River Home site • Willow Creek Home site • Caribou • Seneca Greenville/Indian Valley & Feather River Canyon • Storrie • Tobin • Belden • Twein • Paxton • Rush Creek Quincy/Meadow Valley/Mid-County area • Keddie • Butterfly Valley • Bucks Lake • Spdng Garden • Little Grass Valley Portola/Graesgle/South County area • Clio • Bteirsden • Johnsville • Mohawk Vista • Feather River Inn • Dixie Valley This list represents whole communities outside of fire districts. It does not include all areas. It is impor- tant to contact your local fire department to verify your fire services. Finding 2: There is no clear way for landowners to ascertain if their property taxes are paying for fire protection services. Recommendation 2: The County Tax Collector must modify the property tax statements to itemize the amount of property taxes that are allocated for fire pro- tection, including the name of the district providing fire fighting service. If none of the property tax goes to support fire protection, the statement should say so. Background: Is your house in a fire protection district? The answer is Maybe Not! "Does my home have fire protection?" As the 2009- 2010 Grand Jury has discovered, getting the answer to this question is not straightforward. The worst way to find out is by reporting to "911" a fire in your home or your neighbor's home and then no one shows up to fight the fire. Just as bad, a fire crew may show up, but only to fight your house fire when it starts to burn into the surrounding forest. Alternatively, they may show up, fight the fire and then charge you for it. The most reliable way to find out if your home or business is located within a fire protection district that has a fire department that will respond to the "911" call and actually fight a fire in your home, is to go to the nearest fire station and ask them. Be aware that fire fighting units of the US Forest Service (USFS), which may be the nearest station, are not authorized by USFS policy to fight fires in struc- tures, but only fires in the wildlands (forests, grass- lands). Their job is to protect the forests. The Grand Jury identified a number of reasons why it is important for homeowners in Plumas County to establish whether their buildings are located on a par- cel outside the boundaries of a fire protection district or Community Service District that provides fire pro- tection. If the parcel is outside of fire protection boundaries, the following are likely to be the case: • No fire suppression • No inspections for fire code compliance • No enforcement of state fire codes • No share of property taxes for fire protection How many homes in Plumas County are outside of fire protection districts or are without fire protec- tion? The Grand Jury directed this question to the Planning Department three times and received three different answers which we considered misleading. However, from the data provided (three different maps and three separate tables), the Grand Jury derived the following: Acreage. Plumas County has a total of 1,672,119 acres. The majority (about 70%) of the acreage is US government owned land. US government owned land is well protected by the US Forest Service. The Grand Jury is concerned about the rest of the land, which is privately owned and is where county residents live. According to the Planning Department, only 11% of pri.vately owned land is outside of a fire protection district. 11% is misleading because the Planning Department takes into consideration all of the land, both federal and non-federal. When only private land is considered, including all the acres in commercial forest and ranches where very few if any houses are located, approx- imately 45% of that land appears to be outside of a fire protection district. When only the private land that is not commercial forest and ranches where most of the homes are located is considered, approximately 20% of that land appears to be outside of a fire protection district. Population. The 2000 census counted 20,824 resi- dents in Plumas County. Only 950 (5%) of these res- idents live in areas outside of a fire protection dis- trict. However, this counts only full time residents. It does not include the summer population arriving well after the April 1st census was conducted. Number of Parcels. There are a total of 24,838 parcels in Plumas County for which fire protec- tion is critical. This figure excludes US govern- ment land and parcels that are rights of way and could not have homes on thcm. A significant num- ber of these parcels (4,631 or 19% of the total) are outside of fire protection districts. Since most of the lands are zoned so that they could include more than one building and many contain multi- ple housing structures, this represents the mini- mum number of residences that are without fire protection within the county. This data provided by the Planning Department is misleading. Here's the bottom line. This year's Grand Jurors were told that the only data available to Planning Department staff was whether or not a parcel had a property tax assessment for improvements. Given the clear understanding that "unit" is the only com- mon denominator for understanding how many homes and/or other-use structures are located out- side of districts providing fire protection services, one could conservatively estimate that there is one percent of Plumas County parcels on which are con- structed at least two "units". If that number were to increase to 5% within the next five years the result- ing increase in "units" constructed outside districts providing fire protection services would increase substantially. It is not unreasonable to envision ten years out to the year 2020 when ten percent or more of the county's parcels would have multiple "units" which in turn would increase that percentage. The Grand Jury researched the question: is a property's location within or outside of a fire protection district a matter of legally required "disclosure"? The CALIFOR- NIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORSฎ has both pre- pared and provided Real Estate Brokers statewide with this disclosure document, Statewide Buyer and Seller Advisory. The document places full responsibility on the buyer to "contact the local fire department." According to the Plumas County Planning Department, there are 13 fire protection districts that, along with the city of Portola, operate volun- teer fire departments. There are also seven Community Service Districts, which are "authorized to operate fire departments," but may not actually be required to provide fire protection within their dis- tricts. These Community Service Districts may con- tract for fire services from adjacent volunteer fire protection districts. The level of service may not be the same for homes outside of the fire protection dis- trict boundaries as it is for homes located within its boundaries. The table below lists these Fire Protection and Community Service Districts. Plumes County Fire Districts including CSD/PUD's providing Fire Protection Fire Protection Districts 1. Beckwourth FPD 2. Chester PUD 3. City of Portola FPD 4. Crescent Mills FPD 5. Eastern Plumas FPD 6. Graeagle FPD 7. Hamilton Branch FPD 8. La Porte FPD 9. Meadow Valley FPO 10. Peninsula FPD 11. Prettville-Almanor FPD 12. Quincy FPD 13. Sierra Valley FPD Community Service Districts 1. C-Road CSD 2. Gold Mountain CSD 3. Greenhorn CSO 4. Indian Valley CSD 5. Long Valley CSD 6. Plurnas Eureka CSD 7. West Almanor CSO It is generally understood that there are two critically important elements to successfully protect structures from being destroyed by fire. The first is proximity to and zvices received from t-re protection service providers. The hallmark descriptor is universally understood to be response time, or how long will it