The big point of contention leading up to, at and since the last Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) board of commissioners meeting is an ordinance proposal. Resolution 513, requiring automatic sprinklers, would replace Resolution 480. The item was tabled to the Sept. 22 IFPD board of commissioners meeting. The meeting will begin at 3 p.m.

The proposed resolution would require “automatic fire sprinklers in all residential structures built or moved into the district.” When it comes to existing structures “fire sprinklers will be required for any addition(s) to existing structures where the area added is greater that 30% of the existing square footage or the total addition exceeds 1,500 square feet. Consecutive additions made which exceed 30% of the original square footage (not the current square footage) in any period will require the addition of an automatic fire sprinkler system.”

The units requiring residential automatic fire sprinkler systems are single family dwelling, multi-family dwelling, duplexes, manufactured homes, attached garages, carports, workshops, storage buildings, auxiliary rooms whether constructed/erected, moved or relocated into the district shall be protected by an automatic life safety fire sprinkler system in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association standards and local standards as approved by the fire chief.”

It was brought to the newspaper’s attention by departments within Riverside County that the department may need to first complete a fact finding with the state before the ordinance could be presented to the commission for adoption. When asked about this LaMont wrote, “The 2008 Ordinance was passed by the board and we are looking to track the process that was used 12 years ago. We do know that we are not required to submit to the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC).”

The newspaper contacted the CBSC to get clarification on the process. The CBSC stated that the ordinance would be filed with the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and that the HCD is the department that reviews fire protection district amendments.

When contacted, HCD stated that the district does need to have findings but those findings only need to be included with the resolution or an included package. If the resolution is approved by the board of commissioners, it would then go to the county to be ratified by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. If ratified, the county sends it to HCD with a copy of the ordinance and the proof it was approved and accepted by the county.

HCD requires the following documentation: “Amendment documents must be expressly marked to identify or demonstrate the following:

“• The state law providing the authority for the amendment.

“• The Title 24 section being amended. The amendment text should be discernable from the text of Title 24 not being amended.

“• The fire protection district board made an express finding that amendment to building standards for fire and panic safety in Title 24 is reasonably necessary because of local climatic, geological, or topographical conditions.

“• The fire protection district presented the proposed amendment(s) to the city, county, or city and county where the amendments will apply for a 30-day review.

“• The fire protection district obtained ratification (approval) by the city, county, or city and county where the amendment will apply.

“The amendment is not effective without the ratification by the city, county, or city and county where the amendment will apply. When ratified, the amendment becomes effective.”

Local Hal Carey expressed concern regarding this proposed resolution writing in a recent letter to the editor “Such an ordinance could also reduce code compliance, lead to less construction projects thereby negatively impacting our local contractors, or dissuade potential homebuyers or businesses from investing in our community.”

Chief Mark LaMont sent his response to Carey’s concerns to the newspaper: “Thank you for your correspondence. I am attaching supportive and background information which clearly shows the life safety benefits of automatic fire sprinklers and our reasoning for the same.

“Currently California fire code requires that all new homes include fire sprinklers.

In 2008, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District [IFPD] adopted resolution 480 and the appendix to 480 which requires fire sprinklers to be installed in any building which undergoes a 50% or greater addition to the original permitted square footage.

“For perspective I offer the following example.

“The average square footage of all single-family residences currently built in Idyllwild is 1,216. Under the current IFPD regulation (Resolution 480), you can add 608 square feet to the average home without the addition of fire sprinklers. With an average bedroom size of (10’X12’) 120 square feet and an average bathroom size of (6’X10’) 60 square feet, this would mean that you could add four (4) 120 square-foot bedrooms and two (2) 60 square-foot bathrooms to the average home in Idyllwild with 8 square feet to spare, all completed currently without being required to add fire sprinklers. In contrast to the current regulation (Resolution 480), the proposed requirement would take the 50% square footage down to 30% of existing square footage. Using the same average square footage of 1,216 under the proposed regulation, a property owner could add 364.8 square feet without being required to add fire sprinklers. This would allow a property owner of a 1,216 square-foot home to add two (2) 120 square-foot bedrooms and two (2) 60 square-foot bathrooms all without being required to add fire sprinklers.

“Any addition to existing structures increases the overall fuel loading and risk. Decades of data clearly shows that automatic fire sprinklers (1) save lives (2) minimizes property damage (3) buys critical time for fire department resources to arrive on scene (4) cost an average of $1.50 to $3 per square foot to install and (5) may decrease homeowners insurance premiums.

“I was recently asked why we were proposing such an expensive regulation onto the property owners of Idyllwild when we don’t have a large number of structure fire related deaths within the community. My answer was/is, if we have the opportunity to save even one life, then we should. We also do not have a large number of automobile accident deaths within the community of Idyllwild, should we then remove the costly air bags and seatbelts until the number of deaths reaches a level proportionate to the cost of these critical safety appliances?

“I understand that there is a cost involved in requiring fire sprinklers to new homes and additions. I also place human life above those costs. We are proposing a proactive solution to a threat to human life and property damage.”

The newspaper has received letters to the editor both in favor and against this resolution.

IFPD assistance on fires

IFPD has assisted on the following fires during the FY 2020/21 season:

ONC1 staging (Team 11, Redding), Mile Post Fire Hoopa CA (Team 11), ONC2 staging (Team 11 Redding), Indian Fire (Anza), Apple Fire Beaumont, Whitewater Fire (Cabazon), Red Salmon Fire (Willow Creek, CA), Ranch Fire (Azusa)

Abatement/citation update

The district sent out failed abatement citations to 157 properties.


The district filed for a FEMA CARES Act grant for additional costs due to COVID-19. The first phase for $150,536.86. The entire grant submittal is estimated to be $368,000. The district was awarded the Assistance to Firefighters Grant it applied for back in February. The district will use the $148,571.43 to purchase four new cardiac monitors, new ambulance gurneys and additional EMS/medical gear. The district was also awarded a VFA grant for wildland gear and radios.

Siren update

The Idyllwild Water District does not wish to move forward as a partner in the emergency siren alert system due to overall cost and on-going maintenance concerns. The Fern Valley Water District (FVWD) will be partnering with IFPD on the project. The siren will cost $25,994.91.

The newspaper previously reported “LaMont recommended that the board select Sentry Siren, which the board unanimously approved. The project could be completed in 45 days from the time Sentry is given the go-ahead. Sentry requires a 15% deposit, 35% once the pole is set and the remaining balance once the project is complete.” IFPD allocated up to $15,000 for the project in its FY 2020/21 budget. FVWD allocated up to $30,000 in its FY 2020/21 budget.

Board reviews fire chief

The board reviewed and evaluated LaMont’s performance as the district’s fire chief.

“We gave Mark LaMont an excellent review and we are all moving forward,” said IFPD Commissioner President Ralph Hoetger.