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Saturday, February 4, 2023
HomeImportant TopicsFire Protection / Emergency ServicesArcata Fire District presentation to the Planning Commission - January 10th, 2023

Arcata Fire District presentation to the Planning Commission – January 10th, 2023

In this section of the January 10, 2023 Planning Commission meeting, Arcata Fire District Board Director Eric Loudenslager speaks on the costs, staffing requirements, and potential response times for providing adequate fire and emergency protection in the Gateway area and throughout Arcata. 

To summarize:

The AFD and the associated mutual-aid local fire districts cannot provide adequate fire protection and emergency services for even four-story buildings. For the existing taller buildings in Arcata — Sorrel Place, the Plaza Point (on 8th Street — 3 stories), the Behavioral & Social Sciences building at Cal Poly — the AFD currently relies on luck and good fortune.  “We’ve basically been lucky,” he said. “We’re telling them not to build another four-story Sorrel until we have a bigger fire department.”

The increase in property taxes that come from new construction, or any special districts created around the new buildings, would not come remotely close to covering the costs involved in expanding the AFD enough to supply protection.

Under more or less best-case conditions, the response time to assemble enough firefighters to deal with a four-story or higher building is in the order of 43 minutes. This involves the ladder truck from Humboldt Bay Fire District in Eureka, and multiple engines and staff from Eureka, Fortuna, Rio Dell, Westhaven, and more. A response time that long is 100% unacceptable, and could result in fatalities. If there were to be another incident at the time — another fire, another emergency response need, a storm or natural disaster, or even Highway 101 being slowed or blocked from rush-hour traffic or an accident — then the response time goes up and the possibility of a human unfortunate event rises.

Eric spoke to the Planning Commission during their open comment period on August 4, 2022, with an impassioned speech about the folly of planning for tall buildings when there was no economic analysis of what it would cost to provide fire and emergency services for those buildings. 

“It seems incomprehensible to me that a recommendation on building height could come out of the Planning Commission or the City Council until we have a full economic analysis of what it’s going to cost the City of Arcata citizens and the Fire District to actually provide the protection there.”

A video (about six minutes) and transcription of his talk that you can read separate from the video are on this website here.

We can note that this was a presentation — the total time is over two hours. There is no discussion among the Planning Commission members, and nothing said about the ramifications of this situation upon the on-going conversation about proposed building height in the Gateway area.

To quote the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick*, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” This situation is not going to go away on its own. I think we all know that.

An earlier presentation at the AFD Board of Directors meeting on December 13, 2022 is also posted on this website. The video is available here.  That presentation is a bit more concise, as Eric is speaking to the AFD Board and to the AFD Chief and staff.

Questions from the Planning Commissioners starts at about 1:41:30 on the video.
The public comment and questions starts at about 2:14:25. The presentation concludes at about 2:43 on the video — over two hours total.

To see a transcript while you are watching the video, press the “CC” button at the lower right side of the video frame.

Here is Eric Loudenslager speaking to the Planning Commission on January 10, 2023.


*Philip K. Dick was a prolific award-winning science-fiction writer who wrote from 1952 to 1982. Popular films based on his works include Blade Runner, Total Recall, Screamers, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, The Adjustment Bureau, and Radio Free Albemuth, and the multi-season television adaptation of The Man in the High Castle. Time Magazine named his novel Ubik one of the hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923.

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