May 27, 2019
by Tom Austin
I hang my head in shame. I was remiss in last month’scolumn: I could have reminded y’all that the Camp Meeker Volunteer Fire Department was having its annual Pancake Breakfast on May 26. I could have reprised all the familiar themes: the delicious breakfast, the wondrous pancake cooking machine, the splendiferous raffle prizes, the clean and shiny red fire trucks, and let us not forget the jump house. I could have told you all of that, but when writing the last column, a brain cramp did occur. Mea maxima culpa. Hopefully all you OG Camp Meekerites picked me up and headed on down there anyway without me to remind you, because that’s just how you roll.
Speaking the Fire Department, there are going to be changes– not in Camp Meeker per se, but in the reporting structure above it. Since 1993, the 11 Volunteer Fire Departments in the County have been managed by the Sonoma County Fire and Emergency Services (SCFES) Department’s, Fire Operations Division, which provides training and personal protective equipment to more than 250 Volunteer Fire Fighters across the county. Other divisions within SCFES were devoted to fire prevention, administration, hazardous materials, and emergency management. All of those Divisions were put to the ultimate test by the wildfires of 2017, and – at least according to a report from the statewide Office of Emergency Services – found wanting. Not the first responders, mind you, but the administrators who were responsible for alerting the population and coordinating the overall response.
Cutting to the chase, the County Board of Supervisors agreed with a consensus of County Fire Agencies that a change was needed, and SCFES will soon be no more, like so many battered Westerosi nobles in the just-concluded Game Of Thrones. SCFES’ responsibilities will be parceled out among various county agencies. What of the Fire Operations Division? The exact shape of that outcome is still being determined, but the upshot is that large regional Fire Departments like Gold Ridge will be taking some nearby VFD’s under their wing. Camp Meeker and Occidental may find themselves joining forces, but I stress that nothing has been decided yet. More on these stories as they develop.
While I’m on the subject, Fire Safe Camp Meeker (FSCM) is now bona fide:FSCM has partnered with the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (GCRCD) and Fire Safe Sonoma (FSS) in the writing of grant proposal to Cal Fire for the creation of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), about which I have written in previous columns. The good news here is that the grant has been funded. Well done, lads and lasses! Well done! In an even more intensely local development, I received my second inspection visit from Cal Fire. In their first visit, I accumulated a skein of check marks, recommending things I could do to make my home more defensible against a wildfire. After my initial “this is too HARD” pout had run its course, I set to work. Although I was not present during the inspection, the written report I received was very positive and helpful, noting areas where I had done some work, and highlighting the remaining area: trimming those pesky low-hanging branches from that giant redwood looming over the roof. Despite my fears of big Gummint lording it over me, the whole exchange seemed very helpful and constructive. I am grateful.
Speaking of gratitude, you might want to venture down to Camp Meeker Beach. There you will find a bench, with a plaque. I was present at the unveiling of said bench and plaque this Sunday. The bench represents a Lifetime Achievement Award of sorts for Board Member Emeritus Cathie Castle Anderson. Cathie has been a pillar of the Camp Meeker community for an undisclosed number of years, with many of those on the Park and Rec Board, and the number of projects she has been involved with is too long to list here. Cathie is still very much around, and still in fine fettle, and she was there along with friends and family members to watch the bench unveiled. As Park and Rec Director Gary Helfrich noted, the bench is in a “very strategic location”, with views of the beach, the bridge, the playground, the Camp Meeker sign, and the Post Office. So go down there and have yourself a sit down. Enjoy the view, admire the work done, read the plaque, and give Cathie your thanks for all her many efforts to make Camp Meeker a place to love.
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