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Eastern Plumas citizens learn about fire districts

District 1 Supervisor Michael Sanchez speaks about fire districts at an informational meeting at the Sierra Valley Church in Beckwourth on June 11.

Eastern Plumas County citizens got a lesson on the complex interworkings of fire districts under the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission guidelines during a town hall meeting June 11.

District 1 Supervisor Michael Sanchez coordinated the meeting with county employees and citizens after a series of complaints about what fire district boundaries mean for a community.

A crowd of more than 50 community members, fire district representatives and county employees filled the Sierra Valley Church in Beckwourth to hear presentations from Sanchez, Plumas County LAFCo Executive Director Jennifer Stevenson and Plumas County Planning Director Randy Wilson.

Sanchez began by giving a background on everything that is involved when someone reports a fire, including dispatch procedures. He also clarified the position special districts have in the county, as an independent entity with their own boards and own revenue streams from property taxes.

According to Sanchez, 11 percent of property tax funds go toward special districts, including hospitals, services and fire districts. That amount is divided up among the special districts and used to fund their services.

Stevenson addressed the crowd and explained why and how districts are divided up under LAFCo regulations. She began by saying LAFCo was established after World War II to form agencies and discourage urban sprawl. The commission decides the boundaries in which districts are made, and oversees anything that has to do with changing and regulating those boundaries.

Stevenson continued to say a district’s boundaries and spheres of influence are two separate LAFCo distinctions. LAFCo regularly conducts studies that determine what a district’s sphere of influence might be. The spheres of influence designate where a district might have to expand in the future. If a person does not live in a particular district, but they live in the sphere of influence, then the person can take measures to be annexed into a district.

Wilson spoke on boundaries and mapping of the districts in the county and the crowd viewed the outlay of the fire districts in Eastern Plumas County, honing in on the four in Supervisorial District 1: Sierra Valley Fire District, Beckwourth Fire District, Eastern Plumas Fire District, and Portola Fire Department.

Stevenson pointed out that the four districts, especially Beckwourth Fire, have a lot of “no man’s land,” meaning there is no coverage and some holes within the district.

“Plumas County looks like Swiss cheese,” she said. “It is highly unusual.”

Most district boundaries back right up to each other, and there is a solid span of coverage throughout. However, because of the intermittent federal land throughout the county, the fire districts have irregular coverage.

Stevenson also said the districts boundaries are different than the dispatch areas, meaning when there is an incident in a zone that might not be a fire department’s LAFCo district, the dispatch agreement dictates the fire department still responds. Stevenson said the dispatch agreement was created by a previous group of fire chiefs who drew on a map with crayon designating who would respond where.

Representatives from the four fire districts also sat for a question-and-answer session near the end of the meeting. Most all fire districts in the county will send a bill for responding to a fire out of their district, even if the incident is in the sphere of influence and in their dispatch agreement.

To learn more about which fire district you are in visit plumaslafco.org/adopted-spheres-of-influence .

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