An outsider’s view of Measure A

I am not a resident of the Quincy Fire Protection District, but wish to share my opinion on Measure A. I have worked with QFPD for the past 12 years in cooperative efforts in Plumas County, and have a total of 42 years’ experience in the Northern California fire service.

Measure A asks for the continuation of an existing $96 parcel tax that is soon to sunset. This suggests several questions, including: 1) Why is it needed? 2) How effectively do they use their funding? And, 3) What is the quality of their services?

1) Why is it needed? Many reasons have been shared in this newspaper. Let’s focus on one of the largest funding needs. QFPD was founded in 1878 and is the oldest fire department in the County. Their three stations are also among the oldest in our region. The headquarters was built in 1939.

While it has been remodeled and expanded several times at low cost, overall it is very tired and does not meet current codes. It is badly in need of upgrades. Station 2 in East Quincy, built in 1947, is badly in need of a total replacement. While the facilities are well maintained, they were built in earlier eras when fire trucks were smaller, and the service demand was much less. To see for yourself, please call the office at 283-0870 and come visit.

QFPD protects the largest community in the County, responding to more emergencies than any other FD. You could guess they must have the largest budget, and the most staffing, but you’d be wrong. Their funding is less than 1/3 of the largest budget, and the only employees are Fire Chief Robbie Cassou, Facilities Manager and Mechanic Charlie Read, and Secretary Yvonne Bush. All of the other firefighters are volunteer, putting in tremendous amounts of their own time and at personal risk of their health and safety.

Sixty-nine percent of America’s roughly 1.1 million firefighters are volunteer, and Plumas County is no exception. Being primarily rural, only a few of our FD’s have career firefighters.

Sadly, many volunteer FDs are in crisis, struggling to “keep the doors open.” Being a volunteer firefighter today requires more time than ever, and this has resulted in a steady decline in both recruitment and retention. While QFPD struggles with this reality also, the bottom line is the community will never be able to afford a full-time FD. The current level of funding with the existing parcel tax supports the ongoing success of the volunteer department.

2) How well do they use their current funding? I can safely write that I have never come across a volunteer FD that does so much with so little. Rather than complaining about their modest budget and related challenges, QFPD has always had a “can-do” attitude. There is abundant evidence for this, including, for example, their training facility and fire engines.

QFPD has the most sophisticated training facility in the county. Did they spend lots of taxpayer dollars for this? Nope, the land was donated by former Chief Andy Anderson and his wife Gail. Next, members built it by hand over multiple years, with parts that included used shipping containers and scrap metal. Come for a tour, it’s an amazing resource.

You have probably seen their shiny, well maintained fire engines around town. Boy, they must have spent a lot of taxpayer dollars on those, right? Wrong again, almost all of their trucks are quite old, such as their 42-year-old rebuilt ladder truck, or their newest front-line fire engine, now 17 years old. Some were donated or purchased quite used, and most have been refurbished and repainted in their home-built shop.

3) What is the Quality of their services? You’ve probably read the recent features on their CPR saves. That gives an important insight into the dedication, training, and care they provide for your community. Fires? How about a structure fire last fall, where their response time and performance rivaled career FDs? How about sharing the best fire protection insurance rating in the County? These are a few examples to help illustrate my opinion that QFPD is the best fire department in the County.

As residents, you should be very proud. Help them continue to do a great job for you, vote YES on Measure A.

Tom Forster serves as the Fire Chief in Plumas Eureka, and as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Plumas County Fire Chiefs Association. He has volunteered to write the Plumas News column “Inside the Fire House” since 2009, aimed at helping citizens understand the fire service.