The topic of fire sprinklers drew community members (with COVID-19 restrictions in place) to the September Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) board of commissioners meeting. Commissioner Dennis Fogle was the only one absent from the meeting.

The Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s September board of commissioners meeting drew attendance.

Included in the agenda packet was the agenda from Sept. 30, 2008 when Resolution 480, the fire sprinkler ordinance to be replaced by the proposed Resolution 513, was brought before the board of commissioners. The fire chief at the time was Steve Kunkle. Kunkle was present at this meeting and stated that 480 was put in place in 2008. “It is to protect the wildland from your house fire,” said Kunkle.

This item, approval of Resolution 513, was tabled again until the district can determine the status of 480.

IFPD Board President Ralph Hoetger opened the discussion on the topic with the following: “We as a board believe that sprinklers save lives. We believe that because of the literature that’s out there. There’s a procedure for us to have a more stringent requirement in our protection district than there is in the overall county. So, we had to go through a process and this is back in 2008.” Hoetger goes on to talk about how the public is included in the discussion.

“The decision back in 2008 was that we would adhere to the 50% rule,” Hoetger continued. “The resolution is then submitted to the county for ratification. Unfortunately, because it was 12 years ago, the county’s records only go back 10 years. So, we assume that the procedure was followed through and the resolution was ratified by the county. And I say that because since 2008, the requirement has been there for the 50% rule and there hasn’t been any push back. The county records only go back 10 years and therefore it cannot be proven or disproven that the resolution was ever ratified at the county level, but because it has been in place since 2008, and we’ve been adhering to it, we assume again that it was ratified and accepted by the county because the county — this is part of what the county does — when they review permit plans for pulling a building permit.”

Mark LaMont, IFPD’s current fire chief, previously wrote in a response to local Hal Carey regarding the ordinance, “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 … the proposed requirement would take the 50% square footage down to 30% of existing square footage.” LaMont stated during the meeting that there have been 10 submittals that require the fire sprinklers under 480. It was clarified later in the meeting that all have been for residential properties.

During the meeting, Carey pushed back on the enforceability and transparency of 480. Carey also stated that the county was totally unaware of the requirement. None of the current board members were on the board in 2008. Hoetger said that the district will continue to enforce 480 until it is proven one way or another but that residents can appeal it to the county.
LaMont commented that he had been on the phone with the state’s Housing and Community Development (HCD) Department and said that HCD said it would not be the first time that a county did not submit documentation to the HCD.

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.”

Fern Valley Water District (FVWD) General Manager Victor Jimenez responded to some questions during the meeting. Jimenez stated that about 95% of the residential properties in Fern Valley have 5/8-by-3/4 inch water meters. The size of the meter is dictated by the fire flow, which is dictated by the fire sprinkler company who ask the water district for the pressure and then calculate the flow. Jimenez also stated that with the pressure up here he believes 5/8-by-3/4 inch meter is sufficient. He does not think 1-inch would be required. The only cost to upgrade a meter in the FVWD is time and material. Monthly meter charges are based on capacity.

Emergency siren update

IFPD received notification from the county of Riverside that it will receive the $10,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds it applied for to assist in paying for the emergency siren. The newspaper emailed Supervisor Chuck Washington’s office to find out when the district should be receiving those funds and did not hear back by press time. However, LaMont thinks it will require a couple of weeks to go through the payment process. The board will need to approve a resolution to accept the funds. That resolution, according to LaMont, will be presented at the October board of commissioners meeting for approval.

“The overall cost is going be right around $34,000 for the system to be in place and up and running and will allow us to remote activate the system,” LaMont said during the meeting.

In addition, the district is finalizing the language of the Memorandum of Understanding with Jimenez so he can take it to the FVWD board for approval. The Idyllwild Water District is not going to participate in the siren alert system. FVWD will be able to utilize the system in the event there is water contamination.

New ambulance

The delivery of the district’s new ambulance was delayed. It was supposed to be delivered in late July/early August, and according to LaMont’s monthly report, the delay is due to the delay of several components caused by the shutdown from COVID-19.

“The new ambulance is almost ready and we anticipate doing an inspection of the vehicle and bringing it home the last week of October/first week of November,” LaMont wrote when asked about the status of the ambulance.

Personnel update

According to LaMont’s monthly report, probationary firefighter Torrey Gerstner completed his probation.