MENDOCINO Co., 8/10/23 — State Senator Mike McGuire announced in a press conference on Wednesday that nearly $5.9 million in state funding has been secured to support fire departments, fire districts and wildfire prevention organizations in north Mendocino and south Humboldt counties.
The funding for Mendocino County comes from two pots of money: the first is allocated from the state budget and the second from a state grant program. The first, $2 million, was secured by McGuire through a state budget earmark to benefit both Mendocino and Humboldt counties. Of the total amount, $1.9 million will be used to purchase ten new Type 6 fire engines in both counties. According to SVI, a Colorado-based builder of fire engines, the Type 6 is a compact, pickup truck-style apparatus that is “designed for the rigors of off-road firefighting,” making it perfect for responding to wildland fire and everyday emergencies in rural areas of the county. The new engines will help modernize volunteer fire departments in the region, replacing fire engines that range between 15 to 30 years old.
According to Ely Reighter, fire chief for the Leggett Valley Fire Department, who represented Mendocino County at the press conference that drew fire department and district representatives from throughout the North Coast, the funding for new equipment is vital to ensuring the department’s success in providing the utmost in public safety. And the funding is also important to the future of volunteer fire departments, which often struggle to field enough volunteers to respond to calls. “Most of the funds we have help maintain current equipment and support the mental health of the first responders that serve,” he said, “It takes considerable training and work for everything we do, from events to training to responses at 3 a.m. Recruitment is hard and having multifunctional, modern apparatus is critical.”
In addition to Leggett Valley Fire, the other Mendocino County fire departments receiving a new Type 6 engine are Covelo Fire Department, Laytonville Volunteer Fire Department, Piercy Volunteer Fire Department and Westport Volunteer Fire Department. In Humboldt, fire departments in Briceland, Whitethorn and Garberville will receive new engines.
The departments will have to wait at least a year before the shiny new engines arrive. McGuire shared that the districts will receive their funding from the state general fund in full by the first quarter of 2024. Nick Pape, fire chief of Shelter Cove FIre Department, is helping to coordinate the acquisition of the new engines for both Mendocino and Humboldt counties. Pape shared that once the funding is received, a bid will be requested by fire engine manufacturers for ten engines. The engines are anticipated to arrive mid- to late 2024 fire season, dependent on supply chain issues. A new Type 6 engine averages $190,000 each.
As for the old equipment that the new Type 6 engines replace, Pape said any unsafe equipment will be taken out of service. Equipment that is still in good working condition and safe to use will be passed down to smaller departments, possibly replacing equipment up to 50 years old.
In addition to the $1.9 million for new fire engines, McGuire also secured $100,000 to provide administrative and grant writing support to all fifteen fire districts in rural northern Mendocino and southern Humboldt counties.
McGuire also announced the Mendocino County recipients of the 2022-23 CAL FIRE Wildfire Prevention Grant Program. The state earmarked $115 million in CAL FIRE grants to support local wildfire prevention projects. Over $2.7 million was awarded to Sherwood Firewise to continue roadside fuel reduction work on an additional 35 miles of access roads. Over $1.1 million was awarded to the Mendocino County Fire Safe Council to create 180 acres of shaded fuel breaks along 25 miles of ridgetop roads for 5,200 homeowners in Greenfield Ranch.
“This is a down payment,” McGuire said, noting that he will work to secure more funding in the future, and that CAL FIRE’s grant programs will continue to support localized fire mitigation efforts.“This funding will help tens of thousands of North Coast residents in rural, wildfire-prone communities be more wildfire safe.”
Sarah Stierch covers wildfires, breaking news, and more for The Mendocino Voice. You can follow Stierch on Twitter and learn more about her work and donate to her directly at here. Contact Stierch at [email protected]. The Voice maintains editorial control and independence.