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Who is Crescent Fire Protection District?

The Crescent Fire Protection District (CFPD) was formed in 1949 to serve the growing emergency service needs of unincorporated areas surrounding Crescent City.

From 2004 through 2015, the City of Crescent City and the Crescent Fire Protection District operated under several collaborative agreements for joint training and staffing – including sharing personnel services for the Fire Chief and Administrative Assistant position. The merger was completed in 2015, to expand and unite both agency’s respective volunteer associations, forming Crescent City Fire and Rescue.

The District responds from 3 fire stations located in the greater Crescent City area, and provides services to 26 square mile area, containing approximately 13,000 residents. A roster of 50 local volunteer firefighters maintain our safety and quality of life by responding to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Why should I pay attention to our local fire service?

Crescent Fire Protection District (CFPD) cannot maintain the current level of service to protect you, your family and your property without additional funding to equip and train volunteers and replace aging fire engines and lifesaving emergency and rescue equipment.

Recent devastating California wildfires, including the Young Fire, Car Fire, Camp Fire, Mendocino Complex Fires, Woolsey Fire, Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County and Soberanes Fire as well as the Chetco Bar Fire and Klondike Fire in Southwestern Oregon, provide a stark reminder that our Del Norte County community is at risk when a fire, natural disaster, or other emergency strikes. Much of Del Norte County is comprised of heavily forested, steep terrain and is considered to be at high fire risk. While CALFIRE is responsible for wildland fire protection in State Responsibility Areas, local fire departments are often first to respond, and firefighters prioritize the protection of lives and structures while doing what they can to address the fire until assistance from CAL FIRE arrives.

Local volunteer firefighters maintain our safety and quality of life by responding to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The District is facing a growing need for additional resources and funding to keep pace with the rising costs of providing fire protection and emergency response services.

What challenges is Crescent Fire Protection District facing?

  • One of the top challenges faced by volunteer fire departments is the recruitment and retention of volunteers. The fire service in general has seen significant changes over the last few decades related to a decline in the availability of on-call personnel, coupled with increasing requests for service and increased administrative and training requirements.
  • Ensuring adequate response to all incoming calls, often over 4 each day, requires a dedicated duty officer to monitor the radio at all times. In the past, Chief Wakefield would cover this responsibility six to seven days a week. Upon the former Chief’s illness, four Battalion Chiefs, Division Chief, Duty Chief and one Assistant Chief began covering the duty officer role to ensure all emergency incidents were covered and day to day operations continued. After losing our long-serving Chief Wakefield, the Department went through changes to be able to provide the core programs and services for the benefit of the community. It quickly became clear, there was a need to expand the current program to meet community need. By hiring 3 full-time fire captains the department could improve services, provide effective response, allow for a 24-hour volunteer staffing program at Washington Fire Station, and continue the fire protection and emergency response coverage for our community.
  • With climate change and longer, dryer summers, wildland fires are getting larger, faster and deadlier. We need to make sure we have the resources and equipment to respond quickly to structure fires, wildland fires and medical emergencies when they happen.

Without additional funds to help address additional staffing levels, and needed safety equipment, the Department would be faced with making the tough decision to no longer respond to non-fire related emergency calls, resulting in slower 9-1-1 response times for many in our community.

Why does it matter if there is a delay in 911 response times?

The American Heart Association states that brain deterioration begins between four and six minutes after a person stops breathing. The average 9-1-1 response time for CFPD Fire is approximately 5 minutes. Adequate staffing and reliable equipment will ensure our fire department is available reduce response times to any emergency.

Where does the CFPD funding come from?

Because of our unique partnership with the City, Crescent City Fire and Rescue funding is allocated between the City of Crescent City (37%) and Crescent Fire Protection District (67%).

For the City, fire services are principally funded from City General Fund sources of all types (73%), fire service fees (16%), and grants (11%). These sources of financing are typical for a city-based fire department. The District is primary funded by a fixed portion of local property taxes and parcel assessments.

In 1987, the CFPD established a benefit assessment at a rate of $24.00 per benefit unit with no sunset clause or inflationary provision, generating approximately $147,000 a year. In 2006, the CFPD established a supplementary benefit assessment to help fund apparatus replacement at a rate of $18 per single-family equivalent benefit unit generating approximately $110,000. This assessment is set to sunset next year.

Crescent Fire has proven to be good stewards of public funds, making the best use of limited resources. These critical funds provide essential supplies, personal protective equipment, apparatus and equipment maintenance, insurance, and training to support the volunteer firefighters who donate a great deal of their personal time to the department throughout the year.

Why is a benefit assessment needed?

The current assement is set to expire in the next year. In recent years, funding has been inadequate to maintain our volunteer deparment with the staffing needed to keep up with the increase in calls and needs in our community. Despite the increase in call volume, CFPD has been a responsible steward of the limited funds available to provide the services our community relies on. In absense of additional funding, it is estimated that the CFPD would exhaust its limited reserve funds within a 2-3 year period trying to maintain the current level of service that residents have come to expect.

To ensure a sustainable future, a financial master plan was prepared in 2019 to identify Crescent City Fire and Rescue’s current and projected service needs and to identify the costs associated with delivering these services over a 10-year period. The financial master plan identified priority actions and funding needed to support volunteer staffing programs, critical apparatus and equipment replacement, and training capacity with the goal of aligning its core programs and services with the needs of the community so as not to over-serve, and most importantly, not under-serve those needs.

Due to the increased levels of fire and emergency calls, it is clear that renewing the assessment and providing additional funding is necessary for public protection and safety, and to sustain fire protection and emergency response services at the levels currently provided to our community.

What is a Prop 218 Benefit Assessment Ballot Proceeding?

A sustainable and reliable option available to CFPD is to seek community support for a local parcel assessment, a Proposition 218 ballot proceeding, where property owners are the “voters” who decide on the measure. This allows your local Crescent Fire Protection District to meet safety standards and replace aging equipment so our firefighters can continue to provide lifesaving fire and emergency protection services.

The proposed funding would be an annual assessment on each property in the District, excluding the City of Crescent City. Because of our collaboration with the City, and the funding provided by that agreement, properties provided service through our agreement with the City (excepting 10 properties under separate agreement) would not be included in the assessment.

Prop 218 Ballot Measures require a weighted ballot. Each ballot is weighted by the amount of assessment it represents (see benefit assessment calculation below).

How will the funds from the benefit assessment be used?

  • Develop and maintain a 24-hour volunteer staffing program (known as a sleeper program) at Washington Fire Station, enabling volunteer personal to respond quicker to fire and emergency rescue calls
  • Hire 3 fire captains to maintain the quality of local fire protection and emergency services
  • Provide ongoing training to volunteer firefighters and emergency response personnel
  • Repair, update or replace outdated fire engines and lifesaving emergency and rescue equipment

What exactly is a sleeper program and why is one needed in CFPD?

Sleeper programs are a cost-effective way to provide response from a crew staying at the station. This helps our community by providing a fast, initial response and gives our volunteers the ability to live in a “station environment” which is viewed favorably if later pursuing a career position. By having sleepers at the station, it also allows that crew to respond “first out” to single unit type calls, such as medical calls, burn complaints, and other calls that only need one unit to mitigate. As call volume continues to increase, this gives our volunteers not serving that day as a sleeper the ability to hold back from many calls, which reduces their fatigue and burn out level.

What if the proposed benefit assessment does not pass?

Without additional funds to help address additional staffing levels, needed safety equipment, and vehicle replacement, the Department would be faced with making the tough decision to no longer respond to non-fire related emergency calls, resulting in slower 9-1-1 response times for many in the greater Crescent City area.

Slower response times directly affect the survivability of severe non-fire responses, such as difficulty breathing, persons not breathing, cardiac issues, and CPR in progress responses. Without additional funds, the District is unable to address repair and replacement of aging fire apparatus and emergency response vehicles. A reduction in the response services that the fire department has provided for years is not beneficial to our community, especially in what could be the worst moment a community member may experience in their lives.

How can we be assured that the funds will be spent properly?

  • Funds from this proposed assessment can only be used for fire protection and emergency response services for the greater Crescent City area, including related lifesaving emergency and rescue equipment, volunteer firefighter training, community fire prevention education and fire inspections.
  • All funds would go directly to Crescent Fire Protection District and could NOT be taken away by the State or Del Norte County.
  • A seven-member oversight committee would review expenditure annually and provide a public report to the community.

What is required for the benefit assessment to pass?

At least a majority of weighted ballots in favor of the proposed assessment must be received for it to be approved. This measure requires a weighted ballot, meaning each ballot is weighted by the amount of the assessment it represents. The assessment will not be imposed if, upon the conclusion of the public hearing, weighted ballots submitted in opposition to the assessment exceed the weighted ballots submitted in favor of the assessment.

How is a Prop 218 election different from other elections?

  • In a Prop 218 election only property owners (those who will pay the tax) get to vote. In other general elections all registered voters whether they will pay the tax or not get to vote on the measure.
  • Prop 218 needs to be approved by 50% +1 of the property owners who cast their ballots.
  • California law requires that Prop 218 special assessments for improved fire protection services are based upon the calculated “special benefit” conferred on a property. The four factors are described below.
  • A Prop 218 is a weighted ballot as described above.
  • Property owners will receive their ballot in the mail with the amount they will pay printed on the ballot

Why did I receive more than one ballot?

Individuals who own more than one property within CFPD will receive one ballot for each property. As with all ballots in a Prop 218 election, each ballot is weighted by the amount of the assessment it represents. All information for each property is located within each Notice and Ballot sent to property owners.

If the Benefit Assessment is approved by property owners, how much will it cost me?

California law requires that special assessments for improved fire protection services are based upon the calculated “special benefit” conferred on a property.

The special benefit for each parcel is calculated based upon these four factors:

  1. Parcel-related fire risk factors: Likelihood of fire ignition based upon parcel use.
  2. Structure replacement value factors: Relative cost to replace structure on parcel.
  3. Fire hazard zone risk factors: Very High, High Critical, Mitigatable Critical or None as designated by CAL FIRE.
  4. Proximity (travel time) risk factors: Relative travel time from the closest appropriate responding fire station.

The proposed assessment rate for a single-family benefit unit would pay $74.00 per year, or $6.17 a month, for fire services. This new assessment would replace the 2006 assessment and would be in addition to the 1987 assessment for a total single-family equivalent benefit unit of $98.00 annually, or $8.17 a month, for fire services.

Fire EBUs have been assigned to each parcel as follows:

  • Single Family – All residential single-family homes are equal to 1.0 EBU
  • Multi-Family – All multi-family, mobile home, manufactured homes, duplexes, and condos are allocated 0.8 EBUs per unit.
  • Commercial/Industrial – Each building is assigned 1.1 EBUs per equivalent single-family home, approximately 2,500 square foot.
  • Government/Institutional - Improved Government land is subject to the assessment levy on the same basis as privately owned parcels with the same land use description.
  • Vacant/Undeveloped Land – Vacant and undeveloped land is not subject to the assessment levy and is otherwise exempt from this assessment.
  • Bulk/Hazard – Any parcel which presents an extraordinary hazard to the District will be independently evaluated by the District Fire Chief and assigned an EBU that reflects the actual benefit received by the individual parcel.

An Engineer’s Report detailing the amount of the proposed assessment for each parcel is available for public review at the Washington Station, 255 West Washington Boulevard, Crescent City, CA 95531. It includes:

  1. A description of each lot or parcel of property proposed to be subject to the assessment;
  2. The amount of the assessment for each lot or parcel for the initial fiscal year;
  3. The maximum amount of the assessment which may be levied for each lot or parcel during any fiscal year;
  4. The duration of the assessment;
  5. The basis of the assessment;
  6. The schedule of the assessment; and,
  7. A description of the protest and hearing requirements applicable to the assessment.

This benefit assessment would provide a stable, local source of funding for Crescent City Fire District.

How long will the Benefit Assessment last? Will it increase in the Future?

The assessment will continue in future years, unless removed by ballot measure. By maintaining the Benefit Assessment CFPD can hire the staff needed to maintain and improve our volunteer department and continue providing the growing fire protection and emergency response services to the greater Crescent City area for years to come.

The assessment would fund the services and improvements included in the Department’s 10-year Financial Master Plan. After 10 years, the District Board may choose to adopt an inflation adjustment factor, not to exceed 2% per year, that may be applied annually to account for normal cost of living increases in providing fire services. The District Board can adopt a lower adjustment factor or forgo the adjustment at the Board’s discretion.

How does the number of fire stations and staffing affect my insurance rates?

The Insurance Standards Organization (ISO) determines insurance premiums based on multiple criteria.”50% [of the ISO rating] comes from the quality of your local fire department including staffing levels, training and proximity of the firehouse.” CCFR was last evaluated by ISO in 2018 and was rated as a Class 4 department (within the top 30% of all agencies national wide). Maintaining our department, improving firefighter training, and hiring additional staff can help maintain our current ISO ratings and keep insurance premiums affordable.

Are there more house fires in the winter?

According to the American Red Cross, house fires increase between the fall and winter months with peaks in December and January.

When should Fire emergency response vehicles be decommissioned?

Fire emergency response vehicles need to be decommissioned after 25 years for continued reliability and safety. In order to save money and better serve our community, CFPD is committed to finding cost effective funding options, including purchasing used vehicles. In fact, the District refurbished a 35-year old Type III Wildland engine in 2017 to extend the life another 15-20 years. The cost for refurbishing the Wildland engine was $25,000 compared to purchasing a new Type III for around $400,000. Currently, 4 out of 7 CFPD fire engines have been in service for at least 25 years.

Who makes the final decision on a local Prop 218 benefit assessment measure?

The Crescent Fire Protection District Board voted 5-0 in support of calling for an election at the Board meeting on August 10, 2020. The Board initiated the balloting process and ballots will be mailed to property owners within the benefit assessment area starting August 21, 2020. Property owners within the benefit assessment area will have the opportunity to vote for or against the proposal. Ballots must be delivered by October 12, 2020 via mail or hand deliver at the public hearing by 5:00pm on October 12, 2020 at the Washington Station, 255 West Washington Boulevard, Crescent City, CA 95531.

Only official ballots which are signed and marked with the property owner’s support or opposition will be counted. You are invited to attend the public hearing. Tabulation of the returned ballots will be conducted by an independent authority or impartial entity after the close of the public input portion of the hearing, and the results of the tabulation are expected to be announced at the following regularly scheduled board meeting.

Doesn’t the State or County provide funding for this?

Funding available from the State or County is minimal. With a growing demand for fire protection and lifesaving services and a limited operating budget, it’s becoming problematic to meet our community’s increasing demand for fire protection and lifesaving calls.

Don’t we already pay a $150 Fire Prevention Fee?

No. The California Fire Prevention Fee (CALFIRE fee) was suspended on July 2017.

For More Information

To request more information about protecting emergency services in our community, please contact Fire Chief Bill Gillespie at bgillespie@crescentcity.org or (707) 464-2421.