Aug. 9—The Leggett Valley Volunteer Fire Department in northern Mendocino County has six firefighters to cover 250 square miles of some of the most rugged and remote territory in the state of California.
"It takes heroic dedication (for these volunteer firefighters) to respond to all types of hazards," Leggett Fire Chief Eli Reighter said Wednesday, explaining that his crews respond to ocean rescues on the coast as well as crashes along a 30-mile, very well-traveled stretch of Highway 101 that serves as the gateway to the land of redwoods and marijuana.
With a jurisdiction that also spans countless windy and rutted routes of the non-paved variety "from Spy Rock Road to the Humboldt County line," Reighter said having "safe, modern and multi-function apparatus is key," and he thanked State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) for "listening to our needs and following through on his promise."
That promise, McGuire said, has culminated in a large investment of state money into about a dozen rural fire departments in northern Mendocino County and southern Humboldt County, funds intended to help "keep tens of thousands of residents in some of the most wildfire-prone areas in the state more safe from wildfires."
The "first pillar" of support, McGuire announced over a Zoom press conference Wednesday morning, was $2 million secured for rural fire districts located in northern Mendocino County and southern Humboldt County, describing the money as buying "10, new Type 6 fire engines" for departments located in Covelo, Laytonville, Westport, Piercy and Leggett in Mendocino County, as well as Briceland and Garberville in Humboldt County.
McGuire described the Type 6 Wildland engines as a "desperately needed resource (for such districts as they are) highly adaptable, compact, and able to access rural properties on rugged roads," adding that such equipment is also "incredibly expensive, (and the money to buy) it is hard to come by."
The second pillar of support McGuire described was funding directed to Sonoma County, and the third pillar was $6 million designated for wildfire prevention in the form of vegetation management, removal of dead and dying trees, and both creating and managing fire breaks.
McGuire gave the breakdown of those funds as: "Just under $4 million for Mendocino County, $982K to Humboldt County, and $900K to Sonoma County."
When asked by reporter Sarah Stierch "when will we start to see the equipment arriving?" McGuire said that "each of the fire districts will receive their funding (from the state's General Fund) in full by the end of the year/first quarter 2024," and that he hoped that the 10 new fire engines would be delivered "by mid-to late fire season next year."
McGuire added that the funding he outlined this week was just "a down payment," and that his office planned to "continue to partner with (local fire departments and other organizations to spur further) modernizing of their equipment and facilities."
According to a Facebook post, a fundraiser for the Leggett Valley Fire Department is being held next month: The admission-free "Mountain Folk Festival," has been scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 2 at the fire station, located at 67001 on Highway 271 (Shoreline Highway). The event features a parade beginning at 10 a.m., plus free music and a classic car display, and goes until midnight. Call (707) 925-6334 for more information.
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