Concerns over the current brown out schedule in effect have Oakdale Rural Protection District Board Director John Bairos concerned.
Bairos voiced his concern at a recent board meeting saying the current schedule puts Knights Ferry at risk as the fuel level in the rural area coupled with the response time from the Oakdale station puts Knights Ferry in a vulnerable position.
“Last year there was no fire season. Only 110 acres burnt over the year but this year looks different,” Bairos said.
Currently, because there’s more call volume in Valley Home, the Knights Ferry station has been browned out. Since the beginning of the year, the Knights Ferry log shows 15 incidents.
However, as the fire season ramps up, the area is classified as “high-risk” and Bairos would like to see the schedule switched so that Valley Home is browned out and Knights Ferry is staffed.
Bairos argued that station five (the Willowood Drive station) can respond within seven minutes to Valley Home, whereas it will take an engine 15 minutes to respond to Knights Ferry and in a wildland fire situation, 15 minutes can eat miles and threaten homes.
“We can close Valley Home because station five can get to Valley Home in an acceptable time,” Bairos said.
Oakdale Rural Fire Chief Lee Winton agreed with Bairos’ assessment, saying, “There’s a lot of potential and high risk for wildland fire in the Knights Ferry area. With a 15-minute response time there’s a big difference in consequence. We have a big problem out there and it varies by season. Last year we lucked out, plain and simple.”
The suggestion to implement winter/summer staffing schedules was offered as was the possibility of asking if Calfire could staff an engine at Knights Ferry on windy days to mitigate the staffing issue.
A possible obstacle to implementing a switched schedule is the agreement struck years ago with the county that provides money for the building of the Valley Home station in exchange for service. But the letter of the agreement is vague and didn’t specify the length of the obligation.
The board of directors agreed the situation needed further discussion and would return to the issue.