Truckee considering fire protection contract
After a year of costly California wildfires, Truckee is reconsidering how much fire protection the town needs.
A wildland fire contract between the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Town of Truckee, and the Truckee Fire Protection District is being re-examined to determine if the town needs additional resources for combating wildland fires. The contract determines for which areas in Truckee the CDF is responsible.
While the Truckee Fire Protection District is the primary responder for emergencies in the Town of Truckee, CDF provides greater fire-power during wildland fires, said Truckee Fire Protection District Chief Bryce Keller.
Keller said the Truckee Fire Protection District has the training and some specialized equipment to deal with wildland fire, but CDF has greater resources.
“We don’t have air tankers or helicopters, or the depth of a state-wide organization ” they’re the best in the world,” Keller said.
Prior to the Town of Truckee’s incorporation, CDF was responsible for managing wildland fires in Truckee. When the town incorporated, CDF was no longer responsible for wildland fire protection within town limits, Keller said.
Because the wildland fire threat remained, CDF offered a contract to the town to keep its coverage, Keller said.
The contract amount is based on acreage covered by CDF, and has varied over the years from $30,000 to $120,000 worth of coverage, according to a Town of Truckee staff report.
This year’s contract came to $39,231, but at a recent town meeting, Town Manager Tony Lashbrook said the number could increase by as much as $100,000 for the next year.
Each year, the town, fire protection district and CDF sit down and look at the risks to make sure coverage is appropriate, Keller said.
“It’s like insurance for the town,” Keller said. “If a wildland fire happened (outside) the contract area, we wouldn’t have the initial attack from CDF and the town would have to pay.”
This would mean paying for expensive equipment from air tankers to helicopters, along with all the man-power, which could cost the town millions in one day during a bad fire, Keller said.
If the fire occurs in an area covered by the contract, all the costs are paid by the state, Keller said.
He said in considering the new contract, the town, fire protection district, and CDF will use the newly-compiled aerial photography of the town, along with different aspects that contribute to wildland fires, to decide what the coverage will include.
“I am anticipating expansion,” Keller said. “Today, all of Truckee is classified as a very high fire hazard severity zone by the CDF.”
Lashbrook said that mapping and discussion of the contract area will happen in late winter and early spring, after which it would go before town council for approval.
Keller said that despite the increase in development in the Town of Truckee, the risk for wildland fires within town limits hasn’t gone down.
“The community has a long history of large, damaging wildland fires ” and history repeats itself,” Keller said.