The Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) has made some great strides in the last two years. There have been some common tasks that were neglected and now are being handled properly.
Relationships with local emergency agencies have been restored to a cooperative level as they should be. Agreements and memorandums are in place to ensure mutual aid and understanding in emergency situations.
Because these had been neglected, it was marvelous to have them reinstated properly. In most municipalities it is expected practice to have these relationships in place. The leadership has performed well in these areas over the last two years. These practices and relationships will continue.
The critical issue the department is facing is a financial one. The current board is willing to make aggressive proactive decisions that improve our viability in the long run. Our primary objective is to ensure the community has ambulance and fire protection 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year without interruption. That includes during snow storms when people can’t get to the station from off the Hill. That includes during wind, rain, earthquake, fire and any other natural disaster that may cut off from the Hill from outside resources.
We are committed to having a fully trained complete staff always available. Our IFPD firefighter medics are going to be here in our station.
In the recent past our finances have been handled below an acceptable standard. Mr. Killingsworth is all too aware that under his watch as treasurer the audits were missing for four years and recently the IFPD balances fell to a level so low we improperly used $125,000 of restricted accrued benefits money just to meet the monthly expenses.
Then IFPD still needed an advance of $450,000 to meet monthly expenses for the next several months.
Was there any forewarning from Ben? Was there any leadership giving the board any data to alert them to this crisis beforehand? No.
It is our obligation to have leadership with the expertise and experience in all areas of the department’s needs. It is unacceptable to have no financial plan or even an idea of how to make the department viable for the short and long term.
When the leader laments “IFPD will be broke in five years” and has no plan and an attitude of failure, it is time to move in a new direction. When the leader is being paid over $100,000 a year and repeatedly admits to have no financial or medical expertise or experience in a small town fire budget, it is time to move in a new direction.
We cannot wait for the learning curve to occur. When the resigned treasurer leaves a mess and cries it’s the“paid-call’s fault,” he misses the mark yet again.
The financial problems can not be attributed to the firefighter reserve and paid-call volunteer firefighters. They are the most cost effective employees we have. Their budgets are a small fraction of the budget.
The question becomes why were their budgets cut first? Why, when it came to cutting those budgets, did the leadership have no problem leading the way? Why, after months of asking for serious cuts to the budget, did the leadership say the board needs to find a way to make the reductions? It is time to move in a new direction.
We need a leader who has the medical and financial expertise to lead this department in all areas of the community’s needs. Our fire department’s primary and assigned role in the fire system for California is structure (fire) protection and emergency medical services (EMS).
We should be handing out certificates and reading in the paper of our personnel going to training for our primary role. There has been much emphasis on wildland fire fighting and while appropriate it should be included in our training, not our primary training. We should be best trained in structure protection and EMS. We need a financial and medically trained leader who has been successful with small districts in a forest like ours.
We need to continue our team building with the community, the board, Chief’s staff, firefighters and volunteers of all shapes and sizes to solve our challenges. And we need a board and a community that is willing to give a person with those credentials and wealth of experience the opportunity to show us how to not just survive but flourish.
Please attend the next board meeting with your ideas, your constructive dialogue and the desire to have IFPD for at least 40 more years provide excellent service to the this wonderful jewel called Idyllwild.