Emergency declared for Washington | TheUnion.com

Emergency declared for Washington

Responding to the threat of a firefighter walkout in the town of Washington, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency Tuesday morning.

The county’s action follows several tumultuous weeks in Washington sparked by a highly critical California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection evaluation of its all-volunteer fire department.

Tom Coburn, the county’s emergency services director, called the official declaration a “precautionary” measure.

Without the official notice, a firefighter walkout would leave the isolated town far from emergency services, Coburn said. Neighboring departments would be glad to respond, he said, but their crews would be based miles from Washington.

With an emergency declaration, the state – through the CDF or Office of Emergency Services – could speedily supply an engine and crew to the town, Coburn said.

Coburn said the county did not ask for money and is hoping the Washington Fire Protection District can resolve its difficulties internally.

All four supervisors approved the declaration with little discussion.

In other business, the supervisors heard from a contingent of Sierra Services for the Blind supporters who hope the county will step in to resolve the organization’s financial difficulties.

Six seniors, many of whom suffer from macular degeneration, praised the organization for providing peer counseling, technology for the visually impaired, and transportation.

The supervisors were unable to respond to the seniors because the issue was not listed on the official agenda, which allows for all interested parties to attend the meeting.

County Administrative Officer Rick Haffey said he did not expect the Sierra Services supporters to speak to the board Tuesday. He said county representatives plan to meet with the organization to discuss its situation Aug. 19.

The county has not cut money for Sierra Services for the Blind this year. The organization received $8,000 in federal money this year and $7,000 last year, Haffey said.

Sierra Services for the Blind supporter Vernal Kimmey said the group has suffered from cutbacks of government grants in the last decade.

He said the seniors lobbied the county Tuesday because the organization will need to close if its upcoming fund-raising efforts aren’t successful. Kimmey said the county has defaulted on its two-year-old pledge to assist the organization.

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