Wade Freedle: Full disclosure still not presented by Higgins Fire District | TheUnion.com

Wade Freedle: Full disclosure still not presented by Higgins Fire District

Certification Required Medical Service Higgins/Ambulance

First Aid Training First Aid X/X

Emergency Medical Technician CPR X/X

Paramedic Invasive Medical Procedures -/X

Editor’s note: Responding to a claim made in this Other Voices, Higgins Fire Protection District officials state the average response time for the district was increased to 10.86 minutes in December of 2013, prior to Station 23 reopening in March 2014 due to a FEMA SAFER grant. The district reports that when the station reopened, average response time was reduced to 8.45 minutes.

As in all political contests, the question in regard to the necessity of the proposed tax increase is viewed from a different perspective by the opposing parties.

A body of correspondence has been directed to the electorate to provide background information on the subject, the most recent being an “Other Voices” column in the Aug. 6 edition of The Union. The purpose of this column is to respond to the issues raised in that column and provide some additional information that would appear to be pertinent.

First, the Higgins Fire District has emphasized medical response as an important component of their service package. This is correct, as the majority of calls are for medical services, and the breakdown of that responsibility is defined as follows:

When comparing the services offered by Higgins and the ambulance service, both entities have certified training for first aid and Emergency Medical Technician care, such as CPR. However, when it comes to invasive medical procedures, which require paramedic training, the ambulance service has the certification to offer such care, but Higgins does not.

As is evident from this breakdown, Higgins does provide a measure of medical service and my statement in previous campaign material to the effect that they do not was in error.

However, the most important question in regard to the proposed Higgins Fire District tax increase has not been addressed in the material provided by the Higgins Board. And that question is, should there be three stations open in the Higgins District, or can the primary station at Highway 49 and Combie Road (Higgins) serve the entire district? A review of the incident summaries for the last year and a half indicates that the call volume at the stations located at McCourtney and Dog Bar roads does not appear to justify continuation of their operation as independent response stations. During the subject period (January 2014 through June 2015) the McCourtney and Dog Bar stations only averaged one call every four days. The Higgins Station averaged 1.6 calls per day during this period. This level of call volume does not appear to be large enough to require three stations.

The obvious consequence of a reduction in stations is an increased response time since dispatch from a single station will result in further travel for some calls. The average response time for the current year is 8.6 minutes per call for the entire district. In 2012, when one station was closed on a rotating basis, the average response time was 9.4 minutes. This comparison indicates that response time only increased 0.8 minutes, or 48 seconds, due to the closure of one of the outlying stations in 2012.

On June 20, 2014, the Nevada County Grand Jury directed a letter to the Higgins Fire Protection District with a preliminary copy of the report they had prepared titled, “Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, To Be or Not To Be, That is the Question”. The report was an analysis of the status of fire protection in western Nevada County, with a focus on the financial condition of the various fire districts in the subject area. Their conclusion was that fire districts were in the process of incurring budgetary shortages, due in large part to increases in CalPERS fees, and was expressed as follows: “CalPERS will be requiring municipalities and special districts to increase the dollar amounts submitted to this state fund. This will force some entities to require cuts in services, maintenance, and other operations they perform.”

As a result of this study they made the following recommendation: “The Nevada County Board of Supervisors should direct LAFCo to begin research on the steps necessary to reorganize western Nevada County fire districts into a single fire authority. This should be a priority for the safety of residents in western Nevada County.”

During discussion of the Grand Jury Report at the July 2014 board meeting the following statement was recorded in the minutes, “Director Boykin expressed his fear that Higgins would have only one station in the district if there was a consolidation of all the districts.” This statement seems to imply that the current Higgins Board is aware that the McCourtney and Dog Bar stations do not have the call volume required to support a station.

Regardless of the various opinions concerning fire service in western Nevada County, one thing is certain; it has to be reduced. Defeat of Measure V is a good place to start.

Wade Freedle lives in the Higgins Fire Protection District.

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