The Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) Board of Commissioners met Oct. 27. After the invocation, the board took 30 seconds of silence in honor of the five firefighters of Engine 57 — Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, Engineer Jess McLean, Assistant Engineer Jason McKay, firefighter Pablo Cerda and firefighter Daniel Hoover-Najera — who died Oct. 26, 2006 in the Esperanza Fire.

The district has assisted with the following fires: Mile Post Fire in Humboldt County; Indian Fire in Anza; Apple Fire in Beaumont; Whitewater Fire near Cabazon; Red Salmon Fire in Humboldt County; Ranch Fire in Azusa; Hobo Fire north of Helena near Barney Gulch; Elkhorn Fire; El Dorado Fire in Yucaipa; August Complex Fire in Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers National Forests; Castle Fire in Sonoma, North Complex Fire in Butte County, Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties and Bobcat Fire in Sierra Madre. The current mutual aid billing is $900,946.

Community emergency siren alert system
“The Fern Valley Water District (FVWD) did approve the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at their last board meeting,” IFPD Chief Mark LaMont said at the meeting. The correct version of the MOU is not the version that originally went out (previous version) in the board packet but was available at the meeting. The IFPD board approved the MOU with FVWD.

The board also approved the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for $10,000 for the emergency alert system. Riverside County helped orchestrate the process and it is approved on the county level. The language to include the CDBG was added to the MOU with FVWD. The grant lowers the cost to both FVWD and IFPD.

LaMont said during the meeting that if the agreement was executed at the meeting that the district could have the siren at the station in two weeks and have it up and working sometime in November.

According to the MOU, the system will be tested at 4 p.m. every third Saturday of the month for 20 seconds. LaMont explained that WNKI-1610 AM will let listeners know what is happening and why the system went off.
FVWD and IFPD will each contribute $12,500 and both districts agree to pay $1,250 annually for “routine, regular and customary maintenance and upkeep of the alerting system.” The system will cost $35,000.

Resolution 513 – fire sprinklers
The board reviewed and discussed the resolution.
“I know this initially started as a one item resolution back when we were talking about the fire sprinklers and whether or not we wanted to move toward ensuring that we enforce [Resolution] 480,” LaMont stated. He went on to say that during that research period, it was found that several items require the district’s review and those items were brought before the board.
“We are presenting this [see the October board packet for documentation on the district’s website] today,” LaMont said. “If you would like to go over it in great detail, we can. Otherwise, the ideas were just to make the presentation, tell you a little bit about it, answer any questions that you may have and then ask that you review it and come back at the next meeting with any of the questions, alterations, ideas and to also give the public some time to digest this document.”

“Right now, we are going to shoot ourselves in the foot if we try to move forward 513 to try to get the measure [property tax increase] passed,” Board President Ralph Hoetger said during the meeting. “My feeling is that we push this down the road several months and kind of let the election die down and all of that and then revisit it with all the interaction the public has had over 480.” Hoetger went on to say that he thought it was bad timing to discuss 513 because he thinks 513 will create issues for the measure.

The district is still enforcing Resolution 480 where fire sprinklers are required for a home addition of 50% or greater of the existing structure size. Resolution 513 takes that percentage down to 30% of the existing structure.

The board discussed pushing 513 to after the measure is on the ballot and the measure is determined and best-case scenario for that is a special election in August 2021. The reason the measure was pushed back, according to the conversation between commissioners at the meeting, was due to the pandemic.

“This document has been developed because we wind up falling back to the state’s fire code if we do not establish something on our own,” LaMont commented. “We wind up falling back to those other codes and we have some special circumstances here unlike other places, let’s say Hemet or any other place else.”

Hoetger feels that the public may see this as punishment for living up here and feels it should be tabled for now and make the tax measure the first priority. LaMont feels that both items merit the board’s attention and that the district should provide avenues for the best service.

Commissioner Rhonda Andrewson stated that both the board and public need to be educated about the resolution.

Board meetings
The board decided to table the item regarding board meetings being either monthly or every other month. For now, the meetings will still begin at 3 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month, except December which is the third Tuesday of the month.

Andrewson brought up that it is important to keep monthly meetings with two major, upcoming items — the property tax measure and Resolution 513.