By Michael B. Sherman, Interim Fire Chief

Hopefully, this article will be the first of many informative reports to the community of Idyllwild about the status of its fire and medical emergency services provider, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District.

One of the main purposes that moved the IFPD Board of Directors to bring me onto the IFPD team in January was to assess the financial condition of the district and to shore up the finances.

The entire intent behind getting a quick and accurate handle on the district finances was to insure the continuation of excellent fire and medical emergency response to the citizens that created and pay taxes for those services.

The board is keenly aware that the Idyllwild citizens have elected its members. Therefore, the board has a strong fiduciary responsibility to them.

I believe the citizens of Idyllwild deserve the best fire and medical emergency services that can be provided for the funds available; that those services need to be managed in a manner that accounts for long-term continuation of those services; and that the board’s first priority is always to the citizens in the Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s boundaries.

Because the board understands that the Idyllwild citizens are the ones for whom they work, the board will strive to keep the IFPD services under local control, the control of the IFPD voters. With the above tenets in mind, I began my task more than two months ago. I am happy to report that because of the efforts on the part of board members, the IFPD labor group, paid-call firefighters, reserves, and volunteers, the future of IFPD is looking much brighter.

A few weeks ago, the IFPD labor group stepped up and volunteered to roll back wage costs by 7 percent effective Feb. 1, 2012. This action, combined with cuts and tightened up operations, is already leading toward a balanced budget that should not fall into the red again. There are no guarantees, but as I stated earlier, the future is looking much brighter.

There is a lot more work to do to insure long-term success, like finishing the current audit; restructuring the debt; reviewing our dispatch options; and completing a new labor MOU. But there is now room to focus on those and many other issues while continuing to perform on fire and medical emergencies at the highest levels possible.

As the district gets back on solid financial ground, my job at IFPD will change to helping the board recruit the future IFPD fire chief. Hopefully, that change of direction will be warranted in the next month or so.

Stay tuned for future developments as the district makes positive steps toward insuring the best fire and medical emergency services remain available to its citizens and under the control of those same citizens.

Until next time, its time to put out the dog and douse the fire.