Saturday, November 12, 2005

Column 58 - Fire District

Probably you’ve received emails over the past couple of weeks “Citizens for Cost-Effective Fire and Medical Safety.” The last of these emails linked you to a website that is colorful and professional-looking, though still “under construction.” The emails and the website came from a nltfpd (as in North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District) dot org, and you might reasonably think they were somehow connected to the NLTFPD (

In my view, some clarification is in order. As far as I have been able to ascertain, CCEFMS consists of two individuals, probably students of Ovid, who said “we two form a multitude,” but in this context I think calling themselves a group is misleading, as is the appropriation of the NLTFPD domain name.

These two individuals, seem to think that the Fire District receives and spends too much of our tax money. One of them wrote a report to that effect two years ago – the problem is that the methodology he employed in his comparison of the District to other districts was arguable at best, and a number of the facts cited in the report were in error. I’m sure we will see a rehash of this and I will leave a point-by-point rebuttal to Chief Linardos and the Board.

The “group” posts some fourteen “solutions” on their site. These include such things as getting rid of the District’s ladder truck, reducing ambulance transport, and reducing the number of firefighters,. A recurrent theme in the solutions is “the average for a district of our size.” As in so many things, however, size is not the whole story. Many “districts of our size” are surrounded by other districts that can lend aid – we are not. Many “districts of our size” do not deal with houses that are at street level on one side and fifty feet off the ground on the other. Many “districts of our size” do not have houses surrounded by pine needles and highly flammable ground cover, and many “districts of our size” do not provide water rescue, ambulance service, fuels management, etc.

One of these individuals has said that the fact that we have not had a major fire in the Village is due to luck. I don’t think so. We are fortunate to have a Fire District that, from the Chief to the newest firefighter, is composed of top-notch personnel – most of them experienced and long-term servants of the community. We have four ambulances, and we have a ladder truck that allows firefighters to reach houses that would otherwise be unreachable. I guess if I was dumped in the lake or suffering chest pains I could wait for help to come from Reno, but frankly the idea doesn’t appeal to me.

Not long ago, a part-time resident lost her family’s condo to a fire. It took two years to rebuild. For her, those two years were two Christmases with her family that were irretrievably lost. The taxpayers of the District have spoken repeatedly – we want fire and safety service that will protect lives, protect the value of our property, and be quick and effective. NLTFPD is highly rated by the insurance industry – that means you and I pay lower fire insurance rates – reduce the services of the Fire District, and those rates will go up – do you think taxes will go down enough to make that worth it? I don’t.

CCEFMS says on their site that “The condition exists because the board has perceived – correctly so - that the public was unaware of and thus had no interest in their excessive spending.”  That sort of contempt for the public’s intelligence is typical of self-appointed crusaders who think they know better than everyone else what is good for the community. Well, CCEFMS, the public is neither as unaware nor uninterested as you think, and if you don’t believe that, wait and see the support that is rallied for the NLTFPD in the face of your manipulative and dishonest attempt to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.

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