Hey, constituents of Humboldt Bay Fire District, do you remember seeing the sign below hanging on the outside of HBF’s Fire Station 4 on Myrtle Avenue? Particularly around the time when HBF was laying the doom-and-gloom on us really thick because they needed more money?
You also might notice there’s a few HBF trucks in the garage, too. If you’re lucky, you might catch an HBF crew washing the engines in the driveway. If you’re unlucky, you might see one of those engines whipping out of the garage on their way to respond to some even unluckier person’s emergency.
The important thing is this: as of this very moment and for the month of February, Station 4 has at least one crew, and more often a fully functional fire engine, available to respond to emergencies. Translation: HBF’s Station 4 is essentially open.
THC was tipped off about the revamped activities at Station 4 by a friendly THC fan, and we were curious about just what the heck is going on over there. If you’ll recall, Humboldt was threatened with Station 4’s closure should we not pass Measure Z, and subsequently saw the Station close anyway. Which sucks.
So THC decided to crawl our way to the nearest phone booth (which is a long, long ways away) so we could call up HBF and get the details. Luckily, newly promoted Chief Bill Gillespie was kind enough to answer some of our questions.
Gillespie explained that, beginning way back in November, HBF went on a 2 month trial run in which Station 4 was fully functional. Fully staffed, fully ready to respond to emergencies, the whole she-bang. That went on for a full 2 months.
Beginning in the month of February, Station 4 is slated to be fully staffed with a fire engine for 11 days, with a “squad” that is able to respond to emergencies for 9 days, and will be completely closed for 9 days. Gillespie referred to this as “browning out” Station 4, meaning that the station is neither open nor closed.
So it sounds like, in spite of the fact that HBF says there isn’t enough money to staff Station 4, that there actually is enough money in the HBF account to still have teams of firefighters available. THC is tempted to think that it’s possible to have a two-man squad there full time, rather than sacrificing 9 days of station “brown-out” for 11 days of full engine coverage. And what about those 2 months of full-on 24/7 engine crew coverage? We like to think – or at least sincerely hope – that HBF already knew what the cost of operating the station on a monthly basis was. Rather than wasting 2 months of funding on a “trial run” that HBF should have already known the operating costs of,wouldn’t it have been better to use those funds to offset the costs of full-time 2 man squads from the get-go?
At this point, faithful reader, you might be tempted to think: “What the hell, HBF? Why can’t we get straight answers about the services our tax money is actually paying for?” THC wonders the same thing, especially when we consider the whole “vote for Measure Z and Station 4 will remain open” thing that HBF was pushing prior to “shutting down” after Measure Z was approved. It’s too bad all that Measure Z money wasn’t used to, you know, expand and/or maintain a level of service that HBF’s district had come to rely on.
It’s an even bigger shame that HBF has magically found the money necessary to operate the station two-thirds of the time, when not too long ago it was deemed completely impossible.
Since Station 4 is only currently open only two-thirds of the time, you might say that HBF only two-thirds lied to us about the level of service that is possible with their current level of funding. It is at this point that THC would ask its readers to ponder the values espoused on the Humboldt Bay Fire District shield:
Suffice it to say that there’s something seriously wonky going on over at HBF, and THC sincerely hopes that Chief Gillespie can restore Humboldt’s faith in the 4 virtues displayed on the HBF shield.
To his credit, it at least sounds like he’s trying to find some…uh, creative ways to deal with their budget “short fall”, and THC is glad that there’s at least some sort of emergency response coverage coming out of Station 4.
Let’s just hope that in the next voting cycle HBF doesn’t try once again to creatively lighten Humboldt’s wallets through another round of misdirection, lack of transparency, and extremely vague explanations as to what effects an increase in funding will have on the availability of emergency response services. We’d rather they stop hanging the threat of reduced emergency services over our heads, and start pursuing more creative options of providing the services they quite clearly have the ability to provide.