The What, Why and Where
- Garberville Fire Protection District (GFPD) is an independent, single purpose special district formed in 1940.
- GFPD is governed by a three (3) member Board of Directors who are elected by registered voters that live within the boundaries of the District.
- The District is authorized to provide the following community fire protection services within its jurisdictional boundary:
- Fire protection.
- Emergency medical (note that the majority of calls for service from the GFPD are for vehicle accidents and medical aid).
- Other services relating to the protection of lives and property pursuant to the Fire Protection District Law of 1987.
- Services provided by the GFPD are supported by a portion of the property tax revenue paid by property owners located within the boundaries of the District. Any services currently provided outside of the District boundary are based on availability and supported by the taxes paid by property owners within the District. The priority and responsibility of District resources is to respond to incidents within its own jurisdiction.
- GFPD uses its current allocation of tax revenue to support the Garberville Volunteer Fire Department to provide community fire and rescue services. Garberville Volunteer Fire Department is a 100% volunteer run organization and has an active crew of 17 dedicated volunteers.
- Currently, the GFPD boundary encompasses 1.1 square miles (~700 acres) and includes the town of Garberville and the old Wallen Ranch area.
- The state Board of Forestry classifies forest and range lands (“wildlands”) as State Responsibility Area (SRA).
- Developed areas that are greater than 250 acres AND that have a density of more than three dwelling units per acre are excluded from the SRA.
- Because of the criteria described above, ALL the of the land within the GFPD and nearly all of southern Humboldt (excluding federal land), is classified as SRA.
- Although GFPD resources are called upon to assist with wildfire management, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE is financially responsible for preventing and suppressing wildfires in the SRA.
- Within the GFPD boundary and surrounding area, which is all classified as SRA, CAL FIRE is solely responsible for preventing and suppressing wildfire and does not have financial responsibility for providing fire protection services to buildings or structures located within the wildlands, unless the department has entered into a cooperative agreement with a local agency.
- CAL FIRE will respond to all fires in SRA during fire season that represent a threat to the wildland and will respond to medical calls when available; however, structure fire protection and rescue services are local agency responsibilities and not the responsibility of CAL FIRE.
- CAL FIRE’s response to community fire and rescue emergencies is based on availability and is not a guaranteed. This is particularly relevant during the wildfire season when state resources can be drawn down because of wildfires in other areas or during non-fire season when the Garberville CAL FIRE station may not be open.
- It’s important to recognize that Southern Humboldt communities are served by a network of small fire related districts, non-district affiliated fire companies, and CAL FIRE which, out of necessity, have well-coordinated mutual aid relationships. GFPD resources are no exception and provide and receive mutual aid when needed. This is why you will often see multiple fire departments and CAL FIRE resources responding to one incident, regardless of whose jurisdiction it is in.
- Growing Demand for Goodwill Services: Residential and commercial development around the town of Garberville has expanded well beyond the GFPD boundary.
- This growth has resulted in a large out-of-district area where there is a demand for community fire protection and rescue services.
- This out-of-district response area, commonly referred to as the “Goodwill Response Area”, is over 36,000 acres and includes territory south of Garberville all the way to the County line, including the densely populated community of Benbow; commercial and residential development to the north of Garberville between the existing boundaries of the GFPD and the Redway Fire Protection District; and scattered residential development to the east of Garberville along Alderpoint Road, and to the west of Garberville along Sprowel Creek Road and near the Garberville Airport.
- This area is currently outside of any local jurisdiction that is responsible for providing community fire protection and rescue services (jurisdictional “no-man’s-land”).
- GFPD resources are routinely called upon to respond, on a goodwill basis, to emergencies within this area outside of its jurisdictional boundary.
- Approximately 64% of the population and over 98% of the land area to which GFPD resources are dispatched, as a primary community fire and rescue responder, is located within the Goodwill Response Area.
- Currently, approximately 70% of the District’s emergency call volume is generated from within this Goodwill Response Area
- GFPD currently responds to calls in these areas but does not receive property tax or other consistent and reliable revenue for providing the service.
- GFPD must often call on neighboring departments to cover the Garberville fire station or be on alert that District resources are responding out of their jurisdiction.
- Because of the demand for service from outside of its jurisdiction, GFPD is proposing to annex the Goodwill Response Area, consolidate operations with the Sprowel Creek Volunteer Fire Company, and develop an additional fire station in the Benbow area.
- Growing Challenges: Times are changing and as the demands on local fire and rescue service providers are increasing, it’s getting harder and harder to justify providing services to areas outside of the GFPD boundary on a budget designed for a much smaller jurisdiction. Like many other fire departments, the GFPD is facing growing challenges that include:
- Ever increasing mandatory requirements and standards.
- Limited volunteer recruitment and retention programs and incentives.
- Inadequate levels and types of training opportunities.
- Limited administrative capacity to address growing organizational requirements.
- Insufficient funding to cover growing expenses, including:
- The replacement of aging safety equipment and apparatus,
- Communication equipment and infrastructure improvements,
- Insurance and worker’s compensation,
- Training and certification for volunteers, and
- Fire station maintenance and the growing need for an additional strategically placed station to improve response times.
- GFPD is also struggling under the pressure of ever-increasing training and performance demands on volunteers and an increasing volume of calls.
- None of these challenges will be easily overcome but members of the GFPD, Garberville Volunteer Fire Department, and Sprowel Creek Volunteer Fire Company are continually working to prepare themselves and their equipment to improve levels of community fire and rescue services and coordinated wildfire prevention and suppression to meet demand.
- Consolidation Opportunity: Both GFPD and the Sprowel Creek Volunteer Fire Company are mutually interested in officially merging their operations, through annexation, into one efficient, effective, and sustainable emergency services system.
- The Sprowel Creek Volunteer Fire Company was established in 1998 and currently provides community fire protection service to the Sprowel Creek/Nielson Ranch area.
- The Sprowel Creek fire station would become a battalion of the GFPD; volunteers from Sprowel Creek would train with and develop seamless interoperability with volunteers and resources out of the Garberville fire station.
- This organizational change would support a regional district model, with an improved economy of scale and associated benefits.
- This is a proactive, sustainable solution for meeting current and future fire and emergency service needs for the area.
- To help address local fire service challenges, the Humboldt County Fire Chiefs’ Association commits a portion of their annual Measure Z grant funding to provide ongoing support for countywide fire service planning. These grant funds are supporting a technical team that is available to help fire related districts through the district consolidation-annexation process and will cover many of the associated expenses.
- Current revenue sources are insufficient to support the GFPD’s sustainable delivery of local fire and rescue services to its whole response area (current district boundary and Goodwill Response Area / proposed consolidation-annexation area) and GFPD is struggling to maintain quality services. Now is the time to act.
- Please use this link to access an online map that shows the current district boundary and the proposed annexation area; a series of maps are also attached.
- GFPD developed a proposed annexation area to include the parcels where their resources are most likely to be dispatched as the primary local emergency responder. Accessibility was also a consideration and areas where the District did not think their resources could reasonably get to were not included.
- The response area of the Sprowel Creek Volunteer Fire Company was also included in the boundaries of the annexation providing for the operational consolidation of Sprowel Creek and GFPD.
- If successful, the proposed consolidation-annexation will result in a long-term community-based and locally controlled revenue source to support the sustainable delivery of fire protection services for the greater Garberville area.
- It will be the registered voters who reside within the newly expanded GFPD boundary (from within the existing district AND the annexation area) who will vote on establishing a new special tax to support enhanced and sustainable fire and rescue services (more on the proposed special tax below).
The Dollars and Cents
- Current Revenue Source:
- GFPD services are supported by revenue received through a portion of the property taxes collected from parcels within the current, 1 square mile (~700 acre/348 parcel) district boundary, providing approximately $80,000 per year in revenue for the District.
- Property owners in the Goodwill Response Area (over 36,000 acres/ 1,102 parcels), outside of the district, pay the same percentage of property taxes but none goes to support the GFPD. This area generates ~70% of the emergency call volume.
- Unlike many other fire related districts, property taxes are the only ongoing revenue source supporting the GFPD. Most Humboldt County fire districts have an additional locally controlled tax or assessment to support efficient, effective, and sustainable emergency services.
- The current district boundary is only 2% of the whole GFPD response area.
- The Goodwill Response Area represents 98% of the whole GFPD response area and currently has no revenue source to support local fire and rescue services.
- New Special Tax:
- A new revenue source will be required to support the GFPD’s ability to build and sustain adequate community fire and rescue services for the entire area they are currently being called upon to cover (current district boundary AND Goodwill Response Area / proposed annexation area). To this end, an annual special tax will be proposed for Assessor’s Parcels located entirely or partially within the existing GFPD boundary and the proposed annexation area, based on land use types in the following The proposed tax amounts are very similar to recent fire taxes approved by voters in other parts of the County.
Land Use Type
|Proposed Annual Tax|
|Single Family Residential, Hydrant Area||$100.00|
|Rural Residential, Non Hydrant Area||$150.00|
|Mobile Home Park||$300.00|
|Multifamily Small (2-4 units)||$200.00|
|Multifamily Medium (5-9 units)||$300.00|
|Multifamily Large (10 + units)||$450.00|
|Commercial: Auto Repair, Gas Station, Office Medical Office, Restaurant, Retail (up to 2000 sf), Miscellaneous, Warehouse||$300.00|
|Commercial: Retail (above 2000 sf), Retail (multi- tenant)||$400.00|
|Commercial: Hotel, Motel, Campground (up to 10 units)||$300.00|
|Commercial: Hotel, Motel, Campground (11 to 19 units)||$450.00|
|Commercial: Hotel, Motel, Campground (20 to 40 units)||$600.00|
|Commercial: Hotel, Motel, Campground (over 40 units)||$750.00|
- Although these taxes are collected by the County, they do not go to the state like property taxes; they are deposited in a fund for use by the District (nominal processing and administration fees may be charged by the County to cover staff time and costs associated with managing the fund).
- Initial estimates indicate that, if approved by registered voters, the special tax will generate nearly $145,000 per year in revenue.
- GFPD is aiming for the March 7, 2023 general election to ask local registered voters to approve the proposed special tax to support expanded, improved, and sustainable community fire and rescue services.
- If you are registered to vote in the current district boundary or in the proposed annexation area, you will be eligible to vote on the special tax ballot measure.
- The proposed special tax measure must receive support from ⅔ of the votes cast to pass and if the measure is approved, the amount will appear on your annual property tax bill.
Why does the proposed special tax have an inflationary adjustment and does it mean I could be asked to pay more per parcel in the future?
- GFPD is proposing an inflationary adjustment as part of the special tax because the costs of fire equipment and apparatus, diesel fuel, and insurance typically increase from year to year at rates that often exceed average inflation.
- To ensure that the proposed special tax will retain at least some of its purchasing power in future years, the special tax is proposed to include an inflationary adjustment clause, which allows an annual tax adjustment, if needed.
- Inflationary Adjustments may only be made under the following circumstances:
- The GFPD Board must hold a noticed public hearing to consider adjusting the special tax.
- The maximum annual inflation adjustment shall be based on the federally published Consumer Price Index, but the adjustment may NOT exceed 5% in a given year:
- For the last 15 or so years the average inflation was less than ~3% per year.
- The GFPD Board can choose to adopt a lower adjustment factor or forgo the adjustment altogether.
- In order to adjust the tax, the Board must make findings that costs have risen in the previous fiscal year, and the District will not be able to ensure that the same level of service will be available to people and property within the District without applying the adjustment.
- GFPD is in need of additional funding now and the proposed annexation and associated revenue increases provide an opportunity to address the current funding needs AND the issue of out-of-district demand for service.
- Increased funding is needed to improve current training, personal protective equipment, emergency medical and firefighting equipment, and apparatus, as well as to improve response times and operational capacity by hiring firefighters to staff the Garberville fire station during business hours.
- The current District receives revenue only from property tax, which does not appreciate as quickly as ongoing expenses, such as diesel fuel, insurance, and fire engine replacement, firefighting and medical equipment, and equipment and supplies that expire and must be replaced on a regular basis.
- GFPD is one of only a few fire related districts in the county that does not have a special tax or assessment to augment funding for fire protection services.
- Because of operational cost increases, fire related districts throughout the county, that do have these additional revenue sources, are going to their voters or property owners to seek approval for revenue increases.
- With or without annexation, the GFPD will need to ask the voters within the current district boundary to approve a new special tax to maintain and enhance services.
Will GFPD receive a share of property taxes within the annexation area similar to what they receive in the existing district?
- Yes! If the Special Tax Measure is Successful:
- During their November 8, 2022 meeting, the County Board of Supervisors conditionally authorized the execution of a Tax Exchange Agreement with the GFPD. The condition is that if the proposed new special tax is approved by voters, a Tax Exchange Agreement will allow for the sharing of a portion of the property taxes already collected from within the proposed annexation area at a similar rate that GFPD receives from within the current district.
- The GFPD also committed to meet a series of expectations, including fire district service and organizational improvements, the annexation of realistic out-of-district response areas, and the establishment of other ongoing revenue sources such as the proposed special tax described above.
- It is estimated that the Tax Exchange Agreement will generate approximately $200,000 per year to support fire services. This will be in addition to the property tax already received from parcels from within the existing district and what could be generated from the proposed special tax.
- The revenue provided by this agreement between the District and the County will come out of property taxes that property owners within the annexation area already pay and will not cost taxpayers anything extra. Also, this agreement will not change property taxes for property owners within the current district.
- No. The approval of a new special tax by the registered voters is a condition of final consolidation-annexation approval by LAFCo and the final execution of a Tax Exchange Agreement between the County of Humboldt and the GFPD. The revenue generated through the special tax and the Tax Exchange Agreement will establish a reliable budget, which the GFPD will need to add such a large area to its jurisdiction and take on all the associated responsibility. If the new special tax measure fails, the consolidation-annexation will not be able to move forward.
- The increased revenue will be used by GFPD to sustain and improve community fire and rescue services by establishing the following ongoing programs and actions:
- A comprehensive volunteer recruitment and retention program to ensure that volunteer firefighters will continue to be available to support high quality fire protection services.
- Hiring part time administrative staffing to properly manage records and expenditures.
- Hiring a daytime firefighter/EMT to ensure reduced response times (note that the majority of the calls are for emergency medical services such as vehicle accidents and general medical aid).
- Create a fund that will support the regular replacement of apparatus and equipment, to ensure operational safety and effectiveness.
- Improve the existing Sprowel Creek fire station and support capacity building (increased training, improved apparatus and equipment, and standardized response protocols) for improved response in that area as well as district-wide.
- Develop a new fire station in Benbow and support capacity building for improved response in that area of the expanded District.
- Initially a fire engine may be strategically placed at a residence or other secure location to allow a quicker response to incidents in the community of Benbow. Current GFPD personnel will be staffing this engine as several live in the Benbow area.
- The goal will be to construct a fire station in Benbow once sufficient revenue is accumulated, an appropriate site is selected, and environmental review completed. This is a priority for the District within the first 3-5 years and would allow GFPD to recruit and train new members from the community that would staff and respond from the new Benbow station.
- Having a station in Benbow will reduce GFPD’s response time by half which will ensure a fast and effective first engagement of any fire or medical emergency. Plans are to have the following equipment at the Benbow station: one quick attack 4WD vehicle for medical aids, traffic collisions and rescue related calls; one Type III pumper for structure and wildland fire events; and one tactical 6WD water tender for wildland and structure fires.
- Increased capacity to respond to emergency incidents (i.e., vehicle and vegetation fires and vehicle collisions) along the Highway 101 corridor, which is a fire ignition risk and an essential evacuation route.
- The expanded district will include parcels that are adjacent to Highway 101 from the Humboldt-Mendocino County line, nearly to the Dean Creek exit. Capacity will be increased to protect these parcels from fires that originate along the highway.
- There will also be increased GFPD capacity to pursue opportunities and secure funding, such as grants and direct billing if non-district residents, that will support emergency response along the highway corridor.
How will consolidation-annexation and new revenue sources benefit the community and the existing fire department?
- A new special tax would result in a long-term community-based and locally controlled revenue source to support the sustainable delivery of fire protection services for the whole greater Garberville area.
- GFPD would still rely on services provided primarily by volunteers, but the expanded district will have more revenue from multiple sources to support volunteer recruitment and retention efforts, increased training opportunities, and improved equipment.
- The larger district will provide for greater opportunities for recruiting board members for the GFPD.
- The enhanced management and administrative capacity enabled by increased revenue will:
- Improve accountability through better accounting, budgeting, and auditing.
- Allow the GFPD to better compete for federal, state, and local grant funds to enhance fire protection equipment and service delivery and fire prevention programs.
- Through a multi-year, phased budget allocation and fundraising process, services will be provided from three fire stations, rather than just one.
- This will reduce response times and inspire more community members to join the department because they will be able to respond from their own neighborhood fire station.
- Those residing within the current district boundary will benefit from improvements that will not be possible without the revenue from the proposed special tax:
- Improved response times and capabilities resulting from the ability to support daily staffing at the Garberville fire station.
- Increased quality of the equipment serving the district because of the ability to support an effective and timely apparatus and equipment replacement program.
- Firefighters, apparatus and equipment available to respond to areas within the current district out of two new nearby fire stations. The new and increased firefighting and rescue capacity out of fire stations in Benbow and Sprowel Creek will benefit those residing within the direct as well as those in the proposed annexation area.
How will consolidation-annexation and new revenue sources benefit the proposed annexation area/goodwill response area?
- If successful, the proposed consolidation-annexation will result in improved response times and service quality for the whole expanded district.
- For those of you who are currently located outside of the GFPD boundary, it may bring peace of mind to be included in the district, receiving the associated dedicated services rather than relying on goodwill services, as available. It may also bring comfort to receive an emergency response from trusted neighbors who become trained fire department volunteers.
- In response to severe wildfire impacts and changes to state law, property can only be subdivided if it is located within the boundaries of a fire-related district. Being located within a fire district will allow you to develop or subdivide your parcel, if you choose to do so, and it is consistent with Humboldt County General Plan and Zoning requirements.
- As a result of the widespread wildfires experienced the last couple years, fire insurance is getting harder and harder to obtain and keep if you choose to live in a rural area.
- Although there are no guarantees, being located within the boundaries of the GFPD and the plans to increase the level of service may increase your ability to obtain fire insurance or keep the policy you already have. The following may yield insurance benefits:
- Improved Insurance Services Office (ISO) Public Protection Classification (PPC): Some insurers use ISO PPC to establish appropriate fire insurance premiums for residential and commercial properties. The more the GFPD improves its capacity, the more they are able to improve their PPC, and the more potential their will be for insurance benefits.
- Increased Number of Fire Stations: Some insurers consider proximity to a fire station when they are setting rates and making decisions about retaining or canceling policies – the closer you are to a fire station, the better.
- Increased Capacity to Support Fire Risk Reduction Action: If this initiative is successful, the GFPD will have more capacity to support individual and community-based risk reduction activities such as achieving and maintaining Firewise Community recognition for specific neighborhoods. The number of insurance companies that offer discounts for community-wide or individual risk reduction efforts is increasing.
- Note that the following steps are not necessarily in sequential order.
- Who’s responsible for what? The GFPD Board makes the decision to move forward with the consolidation-annexation process; LAFCo reviews and considers approval of the boundary change (contingent upon the approval of the associated revenue sources); the Board of Supervisors considers approval of the Tax Exchange Agreement with the GFPD (transfer of existing taxes from County to GFPD); and the registered voters make the decision on whether to approve the proposed new special tax.
- GFPD Board held a public hearing on June 8, 2022 to approve a Resolution of Application to LAFCo and introduce a Special Tax Ordinance which will be brought before voters as a ballot measure in March of 2022:
- The Annexation application was conditionally approved by LAFCo on July 20, 2022.
- The execution of a Tax Exchange Agreement was conditionally authorized by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors during their November 8, 200 meeting:
- Election Process:
- Annexation will be conditioned upon voter approval of a special tax.
- A consolidated District Election was called by the Board of Supervisors for a vote on the special tax during their November 1, 2002 meeting.
- A vote will take place on the proposed new special tax Measure on March 7, 2023.
- If 2/3rds of the votes cast by registered voters are in favor of the new special fire tax, the proposed consolidation-annexation will move forward.
- If you have questions and want to learn more about this effort, please contact:
- Tim Tietz, Garberville Fire Chief: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: See maps on following pages. You can also view an online map at: https://arcg.is/G9W0C