Foresthill Fire Protection District Funding Fight

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FORESTHILL --

The Foresthill Fire Protection District may stop responding to 911 calls in the Tahoe National Forest if they don't receive more funding from Placer County.

"We feel terrible about doing this, but we gotta do what we gotta do to protect the district," FFPD Board President Chris Reams said.

Reams told FOX40 the four-person FFPD responds to about 1,000 emergency calls per year, and they don't get paid for the 15 to 30 of those calls that typically fall on U.S. Forest Service land.

"This is happening in Placer County, almost every county throughout the state. Where they're not making it because they're running a paid Fire Department on a volunteer budget," Reams said.

"We can't afford tit," FFPD Chief Ian Gow said.

Gow told FOX40 the U.S. Forest Service pays Placer County around $605,000 each year for police, road and fire services, but the county pays the FFPD no money for servicing land in its area.

John McEldowney with the Placer County Office of Emergency Services said that $605,000 is paid to the county in the form of a payment in lieu of property tax fund.

He said the county pays FFPD $17,500 per year to service calls in out of district areas out of Middle Fork Project Revenues.

"It comes out to about $1,000 per call. I don't know if that's efficient. It's probably not. But it is an effort to help," McEldowney said.

"Who cares? The issue is we have to staff it 24/7 or not at all. Period. Your numbers don't mean anything about anything," Reams shouted at McEldowney in Thursday's FFPD Board of Supervisors meeting.

FFPD wants Placer County to fund two more full time firefighters for the FFPD, so that when the other four district firefighters are on out of district calls, Foresthill still has emergency coverage.

"Those 30 calls, while on the surface are small, the impact is astronomical," Chief Gow said.

The FFPD gave Placer County and the USFS a 30 day notice of the meeting, where they planned a vote on whether or not FFPD would stop servicing 911 calls out of its district.

"Well who's gonna go? Somebody has to," Amos Bartlett said.

Bartlett lives in Placer County. He said he did not think it was smart for other agencies, like Cal Fire stationed in Auburn, to have to respond to the calls FFPD refuses.

Many at the meeting were concerned that people in emergency situations could die waiting for help to arrive.

"It's scary, real scary," Bartlett said.

Ultimately, FFPD decided to postpone their vote until September's board meeting, so USFS and Placer County had more time to come up with a solution.