The spate of recent fires dominated the discussion at the recent Idyllwild Fire Protection District commission meeting. IFPD was very busy during each of them, Chief Patrick Reitz reported. Often the department was receiving more than two calls per minute with questions about the fires’ status.
While IFPD was a cooperating agency during the Mountain Fire, two employees were assigned to the Incident Management Team as trainees.
“Everything operated seamlessly,” Reitz emphasized. “Everyone was part of the team. You didn’t know where one uniform stopped and another began.”
The department hosted six strike teams (30 engines) and several hand crews, according to Reitz. Volunteer Company 621 served more than 1,400 personnel during the fire.
IFPD was the initial attack on the Strong Fire, which was held to less than 2 acres. Reitz highlighted the help that Fern Valley Water District and Riverside County Transportation provided during this incident. However, the number of bystanders congregating to watch the fire created a safety issue, he told the commission.
During the Silver Fire, IFPD crews, including volunteers, helped support the nearby county fire stations in Garner Valley and Pine Cove.
“I’m very proud of the community,” commented commission President Jeannine Charles-Stigall. “I saw a great appreciation for all fire agencies.”
In financial matters, Reitz reported that the 2012-13 year-end report was not available and he hoped to have the results for the next commission meeting on Aug. 27.
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved the district’s request for a $400,000 advance of its December property tax receipts. In addition, the supervisors approved a request from Third District Supervisor Jeff Stone to provide $6,000 to IFPD to help match a grant request for protective clothing for the volunteer company.
According to Reitz, an agreement has been reached to lease a tower site at the fire station. The amount was not announced, but the transaction is in escrow. Previously, Reitz indicated IFPD was asking for at least $200,000.
Commissioner Jerry Buchanan reported that he is developing the proposal for a Budget and Financial Committee, which was previously authorized. Tentatively, he foresees it composed of two commission members, the fire chief and a couple of public members and hopes it can be available for the next commission meeting.
Another career employee has agreed to repayment of excess health benefits, Reitz reported. He has obtained agreements from eight of the nine employees.
The new financial services consultant, Robert Dennis, a Rancho Cucamonga certified public accountant, has begun working with the department, he told the commission. “I expect a full transition completed over the next couple of weeks,” Reitz said.
During the discussion of possible future agenda items, such as board policies and a memorandum of agreement with the Mile High Radio Club regarding operation of WNKI, the chief recommended that the agenda for the Sept. 10 meeting be devoted exclusively to the 2013-14 budget and its adoption before Oct. 1.
“I’ll expand my presentation to take this time to address questions and concerns in a very clear fashion,” he told the commission. “I’d like to focus solely on the budget at that meeting.” The commission agreed.
In future years, Reitz said, “My personal goal is to adopt the budget before July 1. I’m hopeful and optimistic in the future we can make that happen.”