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29 Palms plays Russian Roulette while Oakdale considers fire merger

By   /   September 3, 2013  /   71 Comments

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Last updated Tuesday, 9/3/13 @ 10:06 a.m.

While the Twentynine Palms City Council Members  are affected with apathy and play a cocky game of “Russian Roulette” with public safety, the Oakdale City Council is preparing to do what 29 Palms must do… partnering with their local  fire district.

Twentynine is neither prepared nor equipped to provide fire protection to the The Tortoise Rock Casino and its patrons 24/7 when the casino opens in January 2014. The City is unequivocally ill-prepared to protect life and property within city limits to residents and businesses after a brutal cut this year to its budget. One undermanned fire engine while Fire Station 422 remains in mothballs, is a danger game.

The TPFD is responsible for providing services to over eighty square miles of territory. It’s Fire Chief is burdened with being on call  more hours per week than any other public service professional in the city or County of San Bernardino.

The City pays nothing for fire services even though it receives 22% in property taxes for public safety necessary services. The City has no involvement with sewers, the local water district provide waters to residents, and the city contracts with the county for policing services. As such, councilmembers are living the dream with plenty of money on non-priority projects.

Twentynine was recently infused with a few hundred thousand for capital improvements projects; and $513,000 it received from the state in old rda monies; and nearly $13,000,000 in reserve funds; and a new expense of another $60,000 is needed to continue with improvements on National Park Drive.

But nothing for a 24/7 fire, medical and rescue calls for a viable fire department? City Council Members are tending to pet projects and non-priority issues (but for a long overdue major sidewalk thoroughfare to connect a fragmented city).

Who is tending to the people’s business concerning fire, medical and rescue? Not  your city council. That’s a fact.



OAKDALE — The City Council on Tuesday night will discuss merging the city fire department with a pair of fire districts to save money.

The council also will consider a two-year ban on alcohol in most city parks, except for people who get a special permit.

The fire merger idea emerged as Oakdale, like many local governments, struggles with public service demands and weak tax income.

The proposal is to merge with the Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District, which already partners with the city to staff one station, and the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District, which manages the city department and Oakdale Rural under contract.

“The cost of providing community safety services has remained constant while the available revenue to support the desired level of service has been significantly reduced due to the economic downturn,” said Brian Kelly, interim chief of the city department, in a memo to the council.

The proposal would need approval from the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission, which rules on the boundaries and functions of local entities. A council vote Tuesday would launch an application to LAFCo but not commit the city to the merger.

Stanislaus Consolidated, which covers much of central and eastern Stanislaus County, is itself the product of a 1995 merger of three smaller districts and the county fire department. In 2010, the Modesto Regional Fire Authority was created by a merger of the Modesto and Salida agencies and the county fire warden’s office.

The alcohol ban would apply to all parks except for Kerr Park and end after two years, when the council would review whether it curbed problems at these sites. Park users could drink in parks with the ban if they got permits from the police department.

The council usually meets on Mondays but moved to Tuesday because of Labor Day.

Stephen Frank’s California Political News and Review | By By John Holland, Modesto Bee, 9/2/13


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About the author

Branson Hunter

(This story was posted by Cactus Thorn contributor Branson Hunter)

"The ends do not justify the means." If you use illegal mean to accomplish a legal and even desirable result, the good result does not make the bad means you used justifiable.


  1. Bill Easter Bill Easter says:

    Lets see if I have this straight. TPFD covers approximately 80 square miles, however 29 Palms is roughly 52 square miles. It appears to me we have a difference of about 28 square miles that is not within the boundary of 29 Palms. What I have been reading for month is the City, residence and voters should foot the additional funding needed to provide fire protection for the entire 80 square miles. My questions are; what about the will of the voters, the giving of funds from one group to another and/or the mechanism to insure those that live in the unincorporated area pay their fair share.

    • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:


      • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

        I was talking to some Lear folk that believe the answer is volunteer’s, one said he was a captain of an all-volunteer station in the Anza area. I know those that receive government checks have a hard time finding an answer that doesn’t involve further burdening the tax payers but I as many believe there are reasonable solutions that enhance safety without breaking the taxpayers back.

        • With all due respect Mark, this isn’t 1850. Taxpayers expect local government to provide 24/7 fire protection, including emergency calls (e.g., jaws of life) calls for medical help. That is why we pay taxes! This council has failed the public. They have put school children and the youth in public schools in harms way.

          They are doing a disservice to the 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians, and all their prospective patrons. If the only undermanned fire engine in 29 is on a call in the netherlands of Desert Heights, other mutual aid partners cannot respond for their own emergencies, or the base is on lockdown, on maneuvers or have other on-Base calls, the Casino is not going to have a fire engine.

          I don’t want a volunteer fire department. Taxes withheld for fire, medical and emergencies should go for what they were intended for. Safety first is always a priorities.

          This CC just fails to get it. This CC is indeed playing roulette with life and property. No reasonable person wants blood on their hands, or to be indirectly responsible for the loss of live.

        • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

          What extra burden Mark? Who has suggested and extra burden on the tax payers?

          Let me know if you find someone that wants to add an extra burden on the tax payers.


          • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

            gee someone suggested a JPA any government entity burdens the taxpayers let alone one with the word authority or power or joint, it’s a burden that has to be covered by one of two ways we the generation that racked up the expense or like the bond boondoggle future generations, the expense has to be paid.

            an increase of fire department funding is a burden to the taxpayers whether it comes in the form of a subsidy from the city or another tax increase, it is a burden.

            • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

              Oh I see. Sorry, I was trying to get the tax dollars we are already paying focused in the right direction so we “tax payers” need not pay more.

              But I forgot anything that has to do with local government is not your cup of tea. You would rather no local government.

              That is fine but going back to the County at this juncture will not pass a muster of the voters.

              But maybe you think it will and that is okay too.

            • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

              the right direction to steer would be to pay our bills (bonds) our generation has screwed those that shall come after us. there is no extra funds we have borrowed ourselves in debt. Boy most understand the looming public service retirement crises, it will be messy.
              Oh the voter thing time will tell in any event the debate will get many that normally set on the sidelines involved, that is a good and healthy for 29.

            • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

              So Steve are you desert trailing me, noticed my last comment was not posted, sure hope that is not a sign of things to come. Censoring is so un-American, let the citizens read and choose what is there to hide?

            • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

              What are talking about? How can I answer you if it was not posted?

              Maybe you need to get better than a 56K modem.

  2. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    Hi Bill,

    This has been worked out in the past. Desert heights pays the same parcel assessment that the residents of 29 Palms pay.

    Maybe we should look at in a different way. I never heard the citizens of Desert Heights complain about having their tax dollars used to support the city of 29 Palms residents when the Lear Station responded to emergencies inside the city limits.

    In any event this issue was poisoned by the former city manager who was fired.

    I believe the council needs to readdress the matter.

    Public safety is the cornerstone of any government and right now we have a very real public safety issue. I would think you would agree with that and if so then we can all request that our council step up to the plate of at least having a real discussion as opposed to what happened when Mr. Warne was here.

    • Bill Easter Bill Easter says:

      Good evening Steve,

      I’m not talking/complaining about Fire Tax dollars. As you stated all parcel owners within the fire district/water district pay the same.

      I’m talking about additional funding dollars coming from the residents of 29 Palms proper without any additional funding being required from those that live within the fire district but outside the boundaries of 29 Palms.

      Below is an example of what I am reading and hearing;

      Both members of Fire District/Water district:

      29 Palms Proper Citizen Unincorporated Citizen
      Fire Tax $$$ Fire Tax $$$
      General Fund Dollars $$$ N/A
      (Additional funding)

      “The formation of a JPA. By forming a JPA a percentage of your property taxes would be used to pay for fire protection. That same percentage would also be paid by the residents in Desert Heights”.

      If this statement can be met where all parcel owners pay the same than this issue for me would be resolved. I’m not really a fan of a JPA for this issue base on what was discussed in the past but I will reserve my comments until I see the details.

      What happens with the fire district tax?

      I do agree the Council should re-address this issue to find out if any/all options were covered.

      • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

        Hi Bill always good to discuss matters with you.

        All residents of the water district are paying money to the taxing entities that should be providing some sort of fire protection funding but are not.

        Both 29 Palms and the County are keeping approximately 22 percent of their tax dollar allocation that other communities use for fire protection but these two do not.

        The residents of Desert Heights pay their property taxes and the parcel assessment/fire tax. The residents of 29 Palms pay their property taxes and the parcel assessment/fire tax.

        The parcel assessment/fire tax has become insufficient due to the lack of an inflation adjuster.

        How can that shortfall be made whole? A JPA that under law recoups that 22 percent that the County and the city are keeping and directs those funds to fire protection.

        No increase in taxes just a proper distribution of what we are all paying but is not being used for public safety.

        Again, we all must remember that that Yucca Valley pays 22 percent of their citizens property tax percentage to County Fire. Another 32 or 33 percent is spent on the Sheriff’s Department.

        That would be a total of about 54 or 55 percent of their General Fund for the combined public safety of police and fire.

        29 Palms pays only 33 percent for police. Why should the city keep that 22 percent and why should the county keep that 22 percent of the Desert Height residents?

        I will meet with you any time and show you the figures.

        A JPA is the answer.

        Warne had that information and ignored it. Munoz had that information and dismissed it. What we got in return is a 50 percent reduction in fire protection.

        It is time for a serious discussion on this matter and our council needs to initiate it and also speak their own minds this time and not parrot the talking points like Cole and others did.

        • Bill Easter Bill Easter says:


          Thanks for the comments.

          I’m not disagreeing over the 22% but comparing Yucca Fire Service to 29′s is not the same as they are not part of a Fire District therefor pay no Fire Tax per parcel.

          You know where I stand. If we can find away for all Fire District parcel owners to share in the increased needed funds equally without increased taxes due to the vote, I’m on board.

          Thanks again…

  3. Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

    Bill. You’re talking square footage when you should be talking per capita.

    Something like 90% of all calls are within in the city limits. Using your logic then, 90% of the cost should be borne by those within the city.

    • Bill Easter Bill Easter says:


      Thanks for the comments but I’m talking about parcels within the fire district.

      Using your number of 90% you would be correct that the majority of service calls occur within the most populated area of the Fire District, this makes sense.

      Using my logic, 100% of the cost should be paid by Fire District parcel owner’s…period. I didn’t create the current way that Fire services are provided.

      Mark has commented on what I believed caused the problem which we have now; the expansion of the water district boundaries before/at the time of City Incorporation.

      I will let you all make your own conclusion as to why this was done, I have mine.

      We all live within the fire district and I just want all district parcel owners to pay the same. No taking from one group and giving to another, if a JPA can resolve this than I’m in.

      I’m also a fierce supporter of the voter. Even though I disagree with the vote, I support No new Taxes in any form for this issue. Hopefully the outcome will be different next election time.

      Have a good day!

  4. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    I forgot to mention that there is an equitable way to ensure that tax dollars are proportionally spent.

    Again, this was identified years ago and the report still exists that Mr. Warne ignored.

    The formation of a JPA. By forming a JPA a percentage of your property taxes would be used to pay for fire protection. That same percentage would also be paid by the residents in Desert Heights.

    What many people are missing is that the residents of Desert Heights have a percentage of their property taxes kept by the county just as the residents of 29 Palms have a percentage of their property taxes kept by the city.

    Those dollars are not used for fire protection instead they are used for other projects.

    A JPA would not raise anyone’s taxes it would simply realign where the money we are already paying is going.

    What has been the stumbling block is the attitude of the staff of the city. The staff does not want to see a percentage of their General Fund revenues spent on Fire protection. That attitude needs to be changed.

    • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

      It takes a government man to suggest an addional government entity is the cure to a problem when the problem is a government entity. I have to ask has this been thought out what would the administrative cost be for a JPA? Would it not be filled by the same nitwit’s that got us in this mess in the first place? How much would they get for attending meetings? Would they after time be eligible for that looming economic time bomb retirement?

      The only way a JPA makes any sense at all is with the elimination of one of the current entities that are at the center of the mess.

      We must shrink the taxpayer burden, not expand it please less government not more.

      • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

        A couple of questions

        Who provided fire protection to the Desert Heights Lear area before the water district annexed the area?

        How was fire protection funded prior to annexation?

        Was the annexation part of a strategy by then manager Kennedy and his brother to deter any attempt by the new or soon to be city to incorporate the district to the city?

        Why are we a city if the city does not provide fire protection, water, sewer, police, rubbish ? Are we better off than JT that uses county services?

  5. Thanks for your input, Bill. Steve has already responded in a professional manner to your comments. So no need for me to be redundant.

    However, can you kindly respond to my (factual) allegation that 29 is unequivocally unprepared to provide adequate medical, rescue and fire services to the casino (and for public schools, churches, businesses, homes, hotels and motels and visitors) at its present diminished, weakened, and gutted fire department level?

    The USMC Base is wearing thin on patience when people use them for a backup.

    There are some who rightfully express that in a catastrophic disaster and violent acts of nature — the fire department will be unable to serve all the public. This is one of the best arguments for a better funded fire department. The free ride should end.

    Then there are those who point to other outside engines and firefighters coming to the aid of 29. Well that is not good insurance because they will have their own problems in terms of disaster, flooding, wild fires, earth quakes (last week the Alaska Aleutian Islands has a 7+ quake). And, yes, even volcanoes on our side of the Pacific Rim (Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood, Mt. Reiner, Mount St. Helens, Mount Baker, etc.)

    Note that about 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 81% of the world’s largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire. Remember when Washington state was paralyzed when Helens blew its top?

    Actually, it’s pretty damn pathetic to have to even discuss the need for an un-gutted fire department. There are not that many alternatives, all call for the city to help fund a fire department.

    The city council by demonstration is willing to sacrifice lives rather than fund a fire department. Cold fact.

    • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

      “However, can you kindly respond to my (factual) allegation that 29 is unequivocally unprepared to provide adequate medical, rescue and fire services to the casino (and for public schools, churches, businesses, homes, hotels and motels and visitors) at its present diminished, weakened, and gutted fire department level?”

      Ben before we can find a cure we must find a cause, treating systems will only at best lead to a short term fix. Safety is relative and has many layers major earthquakes, major floods = FEMA, now a tour or school bus rollover that concerns me. The medical response should be a priority, I do worry about the fact we have no county trained paramedics, I know we have the ambulance association that said I would feel much safer with the county paramedics one of the few things I believe our county excels with.

      “The USMC Base is wearing thin on patience when people use them for a backup”

      Do you remember we the citizens at the request of the DOD annexed the base? I am not worried about their patience. Remember what we got out of that annexation? It changed demographics doing so imposed an increase of section 8 housing. Do you understand the base has created a dual status of the residence of this town, there are those 29 Palms citizens that have the privilege to buy a cup of Starbucks, buy a five guys burger along with all the other conveniences offered on base. Meanwhile many 29 palms citizens are regulated not to have those conveniences of the privileged or to even visit that part of our town. The thought of the base losing patience is appalling. Hell the town they would refuse to help is residence for a large percentage of stationed personnel.

      • Bill Easter Bill Easter says:


        Great comments. I by the way find that hard to believe. Mutual Aid is positive for both the base and 29 Palms Fire District.

    • Bill Easter Bill Easter says:

      Hi Branson

      No problem. I agree Steve did as well as Dan by responding in what I would call a respectful manner.

      If I recall during the presentation of the Casino did I not hear that they (Casino Owners) were going to provide funds to the Fire Department. Is this not still on the table?

      What is the real question?

      Do I believe that 29 Fire Department is having funding issue that affect the ability to provided (2) Fire Stations and Crews?

      The answer is obvious Ben, but the solution is more difficult.

      I’m not as you may think against two Fire Stations or Crews. My concerns have always resolved around (2) issues; the will of the voters and the giving of monies from one group to another.

      As stated in other comments resolve this and you have no issues with me.

      “The USMC Base is wearing thin on patience when people use them for a backup”.

      Where did this come from? I’m with Mark on this one. Does not the base have a responsibility for Marines and their families that live within 801 housing?

      Would not 29 Palms Fire provide aide to the 801 housing area? So would not the base provide the same to the 29 Palms area?

      Do you have any evidence from the base that they would not back up 29 Palms Fire? If so I hope it has been presented to the Water Board and 29 City Council.

      “There are some who rightfully express that in a catastrophic disaster and violent acts of nature — the fire department will be unable to serve all the public. This is one of the best arguments for a better funded fire department. The free ride should end”.

      Using your catastrophic disaster and violent acts of nature the funding, size, status, crew qualifications of any current or past 29 Palms Fire department could not possibly be able to serve/save all the public. Some would be injured and some may die.

      These types of comments are used as scare tactics. They are nonproductive and tend to divide people which is opposite of what I think should be happening.

      Who is getting a free ride? I’m a citizen of 29 Palms and I pay a fire tax to the fire district. Those that live in the unincorporated area also pay a fire tax, so again who is getting the free ride?

      I know you’re going to say the city but the city is the people and the people are the parcel owners who are paying their required share.

      You may not like what has happened as I, but we have a system in place that is not working. Let’s try to find common ground.

      Just because someone does not agree with your views on this issue does not mean they don’t care about public safety this include the City Council, Water Board and Fire Department.

      Why I have concerns about General Fund Dollars.

      Giving general fund dollars to the Fire District does not solve the problem it only creates more, and here is how.

      Eventually a vote would be required in the future for a Fire Tax increase. What happens now? If the vote is again no, is the City going to be asked/expected to again fund the shortage.

      Why would anyone, particularly those absent property owners that live in the unincorporated area ever vote YES to raise their Fire Tax if the City was always going to be on the hook for additional funding?

      This is where I again agree with Mark, we are only placing a bandage on the problem and not looking for a sustainable solution.

      Thanks for the good discussion.

      • Hi Bill,

        You queried: “If you have any evidence from the base that they would not back up 29 Palms Fire? If so I hope it has been presented to the Water Board and 29 City Council.”

        That’s not what I wrote. Nonetheless, as I recall, the base expressed concern that they were referred to for backup when the discussion came up during water board meetings, fire department meetings, CC meetings and public discussions in the community.

        You queried: “Eventually a vote would be required in the future for a Fire Tax increase. What happens now? If the vote is again no, is the City going to be asked/expected to again fund the shortage.”

        Yes. The city is expected to revisit the issue because collects taxes but uses it for other city projects not related to public safety.

        You quired: “Using your catastrophic disaster and violent acts of nature the funding, size, status, crew qualifications of any current or past 29 Palms Fire department could not possibly be able to serve/save all the public. Some would be injured and some may die.”

        Bill, someone needs to address the unpleasant consequences. This council has done very little to protect the public in terms of the fire department being cut by one half, leaving the city as the fire Cheif has stated, with an “inadequate fire department”. We need refocus on the problems. The council is very busy expeditiously working on non-priority projects. Moreover, they stonewalled for an unreasonable period time, then, finally, put it into record that “We don’t want to get involved in water business.” In reality, they wash their hands of protecting property and life. They need to be held accountable.

        The council wanted the job of leading; they have the job; they are public servants not above reproach or strong but constructive criticism.

        Thanks for all your good comments.

  6. Chancey Chambers Chancey Chambers says:

    Hello all,

    Great comments by everyone!!!! Thank you for brainstorming solutions. It is a difficult issue that requires a great deal of compromise from all parties if we ever want to achieve results. No doubt mistakes were made in the past and things have not gone the way we all would have liked at one point or another. I’m glad to see that there is still healthy conversation on this subject. A sustainable revenue source for fire protection benefits the entire community, incorporated or not.

  7. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    The downtown station – Adobe Road – has 70% to 75% of their calls for service within three miles of the station.

    At the same time, almost half of the calls the Lear station responded to were in the city

    Given those facts it would seem that the Desert Heights citizens could assert that they are subsidizing the citizens of 29 Palms when it comes to fire protection.

    Point of this being is we need to start thinking in terms of community protection which in our case includes Desert Heights.

    How it got that way, as Bill has pointed out, is immaterial.

  8. Eric Anderson says:

    This issue is full of emotion across the community. Although I would like to see the City support the fire department, my gut feeling is that would be wrong given the already correctly mentioned jurisdictional issues, namely water district territory outside the City. The City should NOT fund fire protection outside its limits (where I live) although the idea of the City further funding/augmenting protection within the city limits, particularly downtown where the call volume and need is greatest should be explored. The City contracts with the County for law enforcement and City augmentation for City specific needs, such as O&M of the ladder truck, would not be inappropriate.

    Lear is currently closed, with a Class 1 engine fully staffed at Adobe plus a 2 man attack fully staffed at Adobe. I see this is a political move to pressure residents within the Lear role area. There is no other explanation. The attack should be stationed at Lear, no exceptions no excuses. A 2 man engine crew can not enter a structure on fire but can absolutely respond to medical calls, TCs and conduct all other operations on a fire.

    The bottom line on this matter is the voters have spoken and voted down the tax. Another vote may or may not succeed and there is no backup plan. The most obvious and appropriate alternative is the immediate establishment, recruiting and training of a Paid Called firefighter force. I stated this to the City Council earlier this year and have discussed it with the Chief. This fire department was born as a volunteer organization and a trained PCF company would only enhance our safety. Arguments that nobody will volunteer or Unions oppose PCFs are moot. Just do it. San Bernardino County Fire currently operates 6 very successful PCF companies across the county.

    29 Palms Fire has far more apparatus than it can operate in a real emergency and a trained company of PCF firefighters and engineers would provide a ready force to back up our regular department without relying exclusively on Mutual Aid. An existing PCF company (which we do not have) would have provided some level of protection at Lear, far better than we have today.

    PCF companies can be established as 501c nonprofits to conduct their own fundraising and manage internal business. These companies operate under the supervision of the local fire authority for all operational issues; they don’t “do their own thing.” I was a member of one such company in Riverside County in the mid 90s and it was very successful.

    Bottom line, a 29 Palms PCF fire company would add value, regardless of another tax measure, with no downside and politics would be the only roadblock to success.

    • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

      Good ideas. Then lets get them started.

      BTW who will pay the bills for electricity, water, trash, paper and pens, computer repair, internet, and just plain old up keep on the Lear Station? Let alone the gasoline, tires, and vehicle and equipment maintenance costs. How about training costs?

      Does the current level of funding that allows Adobe to remain open have the ability to absorb those cost too?

      Again, all good points.

      My goal is to get two full time fully operational professional 24/7 fire stations back in business. If your proposal can do that then I am with you.

      If it can’t then….

  9. Eric Anderson says:

    Steve, I am all in favor of another tax measure and will happily promote it. It may or may not succeed. Funding from the City would and should only augment the City’s fire protection.

    A PCF company is paid-called. When the dispatch center calls, your pager goes off and you head to the station. There are no bills unless the apparatus rolls and in the event of a call SOMETHING is going to roll regardless. We own the apparatus and it is still being maintained. Members are paid a nominal fee, primarily for OSHA purposes, often just $10 per call and only on fire calls. You roll for free on medical and TCs as a PCF. It’s a community service, not a second job.

    The County’s plan was Adobe full time, Lear PCF at our current funding level so I have no doubt it can be done although I have not gone thru the books myself. A PCF company as a 501c could conduct independent fundraising efforts to augment O&M expenses at Lear. Our company in Sage typically brought in $25k/yr in donations from a fundraising campaign by mail, mostly from out of the area property owners. Again, a full time staff at Lear would be great as I live 2 miles from there but–WE NEED A BACK-UP PLAN!!!

    • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

      Hi Eric,

      I have no issues with all of us coming up with ideas. I think that is great.

      I do know that the current income and expense sheet for the TPFD is barely in the black.

      Even the expense associated with the PCF concept in regards to fuel alone will put the budget into the red.

      I too agree that the city needs to worry about fire protection in the city and that Desert Heights should not be subsidized by the city and vice-versa.

      But that is the beauty of a JPA.

      Each area contributes their own fair share. That contribution is not from an additional property assessment fee. It comes from the property taxes that we are already paying BUT the CITY and the COUNTY are KEEPING for their own projects and not for fire protection.

      I also know that the county has a PCF station or two very close to us. One in Joshua Tree across from the college. It is closed no PCF individuals are available nor is the money to man it even at the PCF level.

      Another one is up on the Mesa and it too is closed due to the same reasons.

      The County simply has not been able to provide its own PCF stations in this area. Why would we think that we can?

      Again, I am with you in the quest to provide a reasonable level of public safety.

      It will take people like you and the others I know to move our local governments to take their responsibility seriously.

      • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

        hears an idea
        I would pay a reasonable fee to advertise on the side of the trucks or for a patch on their jackets, just saying. Think about it the district could auction off advertising space, it’s time we think outside of the taxpayers’ pockets.

  10. reyes73 reyes73 says:

    After reading the latest article “29 Palms plays Russian Roulette”, I have a few points.
    1. Mark Clemmons brings up the idea about county fire paramedics, “I do worry about the fact we have no county trained paramedics”. I do believe that the 29 Palms Fire Department is able to provide this service however it takes funding to start a program, i.e. equipment and supplies. County provides this service but there is a cost involved, the patients are billed for paramedic services. Also San Bernardino County does not train paramedics. The paramedics for county fire are men and women that most have whom have put themselves though a paramedic program at a community college or private paramedic educational program.
    2. Eric Anderson said “Bottom line, a 29 Palms PCF fire company would add value, regardless of another tax measure, with no downside and politics would be the only roadblock to success.” I have spoken to my insurance company, my insurance company states that a paid call fire department is not recognized and will not give me a discount on my homeowner insurance. Mr. Anderson and others like him whom have proposed that this area will benefit from a paid call fire department, when are you all going to drop off an application to become a paid call fire fighter? When are you going to Copper Mountain College and sign up for their paid called fire academy? When are you going to take a first aid class, CPR class or take an EMT course? Are you going to make the commitment when it comes to training, maintaining skill, staffing a station and running calls, regardless of what time the call comes in? If I was younger and in better health, I would jump at the chance but I can’t. I know my limitations. I medically retired from the fire service, so I have a little insight on how this works.
    3. Mr. Anderson also stated, “San Bernardino County Fire currently operates 6 very successful PCF companies across the county.” What stations and in what communities are successful? Here are two areas that have a paid call fire station that is not staffed, Panorama Heights and Landers.

  11. Eric Anderson says:

    Gents, there are numerous PCF stations which are not staffed. That is correct. There are 6 stations where the community stepped up, all on the western side of the county. I do not remember which but if you really want to know call the County HQ, they are very forthcoming about this.

    No a PCF station will not reduce your or my insurance rates. I am talking about real world emergency response. Not insurance or politics. Passing another measure resulting in Lear staffed full time is the only sure solution to your insurance premiums. Funds raised in the Lear role area are more than adequate to fund Lear as a PCF, this is the County’s plan, but I would imagine this means eliminating the staffing of the 2 man attack, which is downtown.

    Reyes 73, there is no place to drop an application. I spent 3 years as a Riverside County PCF and a number of years with the Forest Service long ago. I have made it clear I would organize this, if asked, but until the community as a whole demands a PCF company and the Water District and Department agree there is nothing to organize. I already have people interested including retired LA County firefighter Bob Gorble.

    • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

      One thing about it Eric you don’t have to ask for permission from bureaucrats to help thy neighbor, I like the article that Dan posted about starting a volunteer department. Some did not like the message so they attacked the messenger but if I were you I would start organizing and if it looks like it will get off the ground Smith’s Ranch Drive In would like to be one of the first donors, good luck and god bless my friend.

      The people are the cure, big brother the disease.

      • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

        No I do not like the message nor the messenger.

        I know what it takes out on the streets when cars are smashed and people are dying.

        A volunteer/PCF organization had better be very well trained have all the right equipment and had better have a whole bunch of liability insurance.

        Just saying.

  12. Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:


    When you talk about a “PCF company” are you talking about a “Volunteer Fire Department?”

    Now the other question I have…. Who would have responsibility for the “PCF company?” Would it be a government agency or a private fire company?

    Yes, private fire departments still exist and thrive.

  13. Rick Ward says:

    If the current fire district had access to the monies I pay to the City of Twentynine Palms and the monies I pay to the County of San Bernardino (and to those same or similar monies payed by everyone else in this area), The existing fire service would have no difficulty providing adequate service to all concerned.

    The problem as I see it is tax collecting entities acquiring tax dollars and not passing them to the intended purposes.

    Perhaps a future generation will hold these people’s feet to the fire for spending public safety money for iron goats.

    • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

      The sad part of this current situation Rick is that it can be easily fixed but there presently is no will to fix it at this time with our elected individuals.

      This may change with elections coming up in 2014.

    • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

      Rick there is no excess funds, that reserve they talk about won’t cover the looming pension mess. You have a point with the sheep add to that what past councils wasted on private parking lots and such there is no way without additional tax funding to weather the lurking economic disaster. Those that can’t wait to try and get back in office don’t like to hear this but the answer is to eliminate an unnecessary and very costly layer of bureaucracy, the city government of 29. Even with the savings we could get by firing the city it will still be difficult to meet the pension and bond burdens levied on the people by past councils.

  14. Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

    Rural/Metro is the national leader in private fire protection services to dozens of unincorporated communities around the nation, such as Maricopa County, Arizona; Knox County, Tennessee; Pima County, Arizona; Josephine County, Oregon; Pinal County, Arizona; Yuma County, Arizona. Property owners are responsible to contract directly with Rural/Metro Fire Department to provide fire protection services. With your annual subscription you avoid costly, non-member hourly rates for response to your property.

    Rural/Metro Fire Department is not funded by tax dollars. We are a subscription fire department supported through annual fees by a yearly membership. Additionally, you may be eligible for discounted rates on your homeowners insurance when you retain service with us. We offer many services to our customers in addition to fire service coverage, please contact the local Customer Service Department in your area for more information.

    Existing Rural/Metro customers can safely and conveniently maintain their fire service by paying online, with 100% protection of your personal information. If you have any questions, please contact the local Customer Service Department in your area.

    Thank you again for continuing fire service on your property with Rural/Metro Fire Department!

    Renew Fire Service in Josephine County Renew Fire Service in Maricopa County
    Renew Fire Service in Knox County Renew Fire Service in Yuma County
    Renew Fire Service in Pima County Renew Fire Service in Pinal County
    • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

      Rural/Metro provides fire protection services primarily under a subscription-based model to individual homeowners and commercial property owners in unincorporated suburbs. These areas are not included within municipal fire department boundaries, and Rural/Metro fills that niche. In fact, it is the business model that our company was founded upon.

      As the nation’s leading private-sector fire protection provider, Rural/Metro customizes our services to your community’s needs, offering a range of services that include:

      • Fire Prevention
      • Fire Suppression
      • Emergency Medical Services
      • Fire Inspection Services
      • Community Health & Safety Programs

      Additionally, in certain communities, Rural/Metro partners directly with cities, towns and fire districts under master fire contracts to provide a full complement of fire protection, prevention and emergency medical services.

      In partnership with community leaders and property owners, we develop resourceful community fire protection solutions that deliver quality, efficiency, service, safety and value.

      These are just a few of the factors that make Rural/Metro a leader in the private-sector fire protection business.

      Side Note: I gave a call to the Pima county Arizona Rural/Metro Fire Department…. I asked how much would it cost to cover a 1500 sq ft house with a thousand sq ft of out buildings and garage… total 2500 sq ft…… they told me it would cost me $486.00 per year. or $40.00 a month.

      • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

        That would be pretty expensive. $40.00 a month as compared to our own fire department at $80.00 a year or $6.66 a month.

        Considering our own fire department simply wants to increase rates to $140.00 a year that is still only $11.66 a month.

        Seems like a no brainer here friends.

        Anyone who is even thinking of having a contracted out private fire department is leading you into a money pit without return.

        Lets get our tax dollars spent where they should be spent and not how they are being spent now.

        No tax increases – only smart spending of what we are already paying.

        Hold those in office now accountable for the lack of public safety.

        • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

          There is no way a government entity can perform with less funding than the private sector, it don’t work nada never impossible. I think what Steve is missing with his comparison is the current 80 bucks a year is imposed not only on every parcel with a structure but every parcel whether it has a structure or not. Yep it is just another form of welfare taking from some to give nanny protection to others. Isn’t that what got us in the mess? It would serve some well to read Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.

          It seems American that one would have the right to choose whether or not to opt in, many would choose to live with the risk.

          big bro big government is not the answer.

          • Chancey Chambers Chancey Chambers says:

            Hello Mark,

            Thank you for contributing to this discussion.

            I believe unimproved parcels in the district only pay $48.00 for the first 5 acres each year. Large parcels are taxed an additional $2.00 per acre, up to $150.00.

            I thought you preferred government run fire protection…. Have you changed your mind?

            • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

              Thanks for the correction I know a couple of property owners out Lear way that complain about the fees on their tax bill. Thinking about it they do own several acres. I guess the point I was making is the fact that the home owners are subsidized by those that have no structures on their parcels thereby a form of welfare.
              As I have stated given the choice of county services that includes paramedics over the districts services I would chose the county for what I see as an obvious choice. Add the option of pay your own way eliminating a tax burden I would go that direction.

            • Chancey Chambers Chancey Chambers says:

              You make valid points.

              I too was a fan of the county model until their own reports showed they could not support proposed services for longer than a year, or maybe two, without going into the red. Their structure seems to be optimized for larger communities with greater density. Their model will become less effective if they are mandated by the feds to give healthcare to their limited term workers, including firefighters. I fear that we will see a rollback of county services if this occurs.

              As far as pensions go, I agree that Cal Pers is a problem. The unfunded liabilities caused by the classic models are ridiculous and their governing body does not listen to their actuaries. If there is precedent showing that municipal agencies can claim bankruptcy protection to avoid paying into state retirement systems, it could very well cause a domino effect.

              I think private fire protection is a reasonable approach if there is a system that is both equitable and competitive in price. I have not seen one yet.

              Volunteers are great. I think everyone with half a brain in their head supports them. However, it is increasingly difficult to find enough local volunteers to fill the ranks of TPFD. Last time I checked I think TPFD had one, maybe two from 29.

              Also, keep in mind that none of this solves the issue of revenue sustainability. The current tax is broken and even a totally volunteer organization will require hundreds of thousands of dollars to function properly. Inflation will eventually catch up and I don’t think selling ad spaces on trucks and asking for donations will cover the difference for very long. Either the special tax needs to be corrected, someone must partner with TPFD, or another organization must take over fire protection and supplement the special tax with their own general revenue. Everything else is a Band-Aid strategy.

          • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

            Hi Mark,

            How can you even argue that $6.66 a month is more costly than $40.00 a month?

            There are things that the private sector cannot even come close to being competitive in.

            They are – ready – POLICE, FIRE, and MILITARY.

            Your pension argument is a red herring.

            • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

              Apples and oranges vacant parcels vs structures
              there is many police and fire services heck I thought they use a private police force on the base. and military u may want to take a trip down memory lane I remember learning what an effective force the french foreign legion was not to mention how our DOE uses Wakenhut or the state department using blackwater who change their named to I think ze.
              you have some kind of info on the pension issue you can share?

  15. reyes73 reyes73 says:

    I would like to point out some faults with a private fire department such as Rural/Metro:
    1. Rural/Metro Filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy August 2013. I found this on the Wall Street Journal’s web site.
    2. Rural/Metro subscription plan is based on the structure and/or structures on you property, as Mr. Spear and Mr. O’Brian pointed out the cost to apply for a subscription would be greater than what a citizen would be paying in fire tax now.
    3. If you DO NOT subscribe to their plan, you WILL be billed the full cost of services.
    a. Service Performed Non-Subscriber Fee
    i. Emergency Medical Response $425
    ii. Car Fire $1,500
    iii. Structure Fire $21,039
    4. 29 Palms Fire Department DOES NOT bill for services regardless where in 29 Palms or what type of call they go on.
    5. The bill a citizen receives for services is from the local ambulance company, they would also get a bill even if a private fire department provided services.
    Who pays for services from a private fire department for those that drive through our town, visit the park or how about our servicemen and women that live on base? How much will it cost for a hotel, motel or the Inn to pay for services?

  16. Eric Anderson says:

    Gents, sorry for the late reply, been busy. Dan, I am referring to the modern day volunteer citizen firefighter, fully trained and qualified. This company would fall under our current Chief operationally and would/could operate independently for business purposes such as fundraising. They would operate the local, existing apparatus once qualified. Riverside County used to have a very successful PCF program with nearly 1000 active members back in the 90s. They traded this for a reserve program with about 200 participants. Probably not a good move on their part as the PCFs were very professional and active. When we showed up at your house all you saw was Riverside County firefighters.

    Gents, I have a recommendation for all of you on the funding side. There has been a lot of talk about the City pitching in. I do not believe this will happen unless there is overwhelming political pressure. A petition signed by as many CITY residents as possible would be a good start. Commercial entities should also pay a more proportionate levy to their risk and size. A restaurant with fryers and electrical has a far greater chance of fire than my house on 5 acres.

    I believe the Department has shot itself in the foot with the current staffing plan. The Lear Station has closed, the City has given up nothing, and now the downtown station staffing has INCREASED!! from 1 pumper to a pumper and 2 man attack. Why would the City cover any expenses? They have just gained additional coverage because of the current funding situation. Unless of course you live in Indian Cove.

    Sorry Mark, I am not even going to touch the subject of this Ponzi scheme CALPERS retirement system. There is no fixing that, once you are in as an agency you have about as much chance of getting out as a hit man getting out of the Mob.

    • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

      The calpers issue will be coming to the forefront with the city of san bernardino bankruptcy case. calpers has a lot riding on this case, so far they have been on the losing side, something to do with federal bankruptcy laws trumping state pension code. It is unsure what this will mean for their member agencies but many are predicting sever pain for their retirees.

  17. Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

    There are 31,013 Fire Departments through out the United States. The breakdown is as follows:

    Paid: 2,219
    Volunteer: 20,298
    Combination: 4,233

  18. reyes73 reyes73 says:

    Has anyone ever thought of asking the fire chief about all this, the who, what, why and where questions, so we as citizens can be better informed instead of hear say or “this is what the fire department should do” type of comments. I know I have spoken to firefighter personnel at the Lear station on several occasions before the Lear station closed. I have also followed the water board meeting and some city hall meeting. I would like to think of myself as well informed. The one disappointing fact about all these comments is, where were all the people when this was being discuss at water board meeting and city council meeting?

  19. reyes73 reyes73 says:

    We keep talking about volunteers, when in fact about 79% of our current fire department is volunteer firefighters. This is according to the information I have found on-line. If the Lear station was to open, who would pay for the daily station activities such as utilities, fuel for the apparatus, cleaning supplies, etc.?
    Of course the paid call firefighters will have to be under the jurisdiction of the 29 Palms Fire Department, where does funding come from? How much do other organizations in this community get in donations, such as the 29 Palms CERT team. If the city didn’t give $10,000 last year could they have survived.
    Who would train the paid call firefighters or volunteer firefighters?
    Who would monitor their skills and training?
    Who would ensure that we as citizens are getting quality people?
    How much would it cost to get these (volunteer) paid call firefighters outfitted all their safety gear?
    How much would it cost to train these individuals to meet current standards?
    Riverside County may have a successful program, but 29 Palms is not Riverside County nor does 29 Palms have the resources that Riverside County has.

  20. reyes73 reyes73 says:

    I have never met the fire chief. The information I have gathered is by searching on-line, past meetings and talking to the firefighters at the Lear station before it closed or whom I run into around town. I just want what we deserve from our City and from our fire department.

    • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

      Well then there goes our chance to use you to get him to come up on line and answer some of these questions.

      • Adam Lunn says:

        What questions are there? Steve Spear has pretty much answered most.

        • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

          Yep he did, we shouldn’t plan or make decisions based on pensions / CALPERs that issue is a red herring LOL

          • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

            Such market fluctuations matter even less to CalPERS because they don’t have to hit targets and have no pressing reason to do so. If they have a shortfall, by law they can bill municipalities, school districts, and the state and tell them to make up the difference. The 0.25% drop in the CalPERS expected return will cost the California state general fund $167 million more this fiscal year, making a total of $3.7 billion owed by the general fund to CalPERS. School districts and other entities will also have to pay more. This comes at a time when school districts have already cut their budgets radically and the state is facing a projected $9.2 billion deficit. But they can’t say no. By law they must give CalPERS whatever it asks for. This hardly seems fair or prudent.

            Any shortfall in CalPERS funding is, of course, eventually paid by the citizens of California. Unrealistically high projected rates of return simply kick the can down the road and solve nothing. In fact, they just makes things worse by ignoring the increasing gap between what CalPERS has and what it’s obligation to future retirees is.

  21. Eric Anderson says:

    Reyes, as I stated in my first comment, I entered this discussion at a City Council meeting where I proposed the PCF concept. Council had no idea what I was talking about; the County Chief briefed his plan later that night, turns out they were the same. THE COUNTY FIRE CHIEF HAS LOOKED AT THE 29 PALMS FIRE BUDGET AND STATED THE COUNTY WOULD RUN THIS DEPARTMENT WITH ADOBE STAFFED WITH 3 AND LEAR STAFFED AS A PCF STATION. There is clearly enough money in the budget to run a PCF company with Lear open. The ‘will’ to do so is the hang up.

    Our Chief was also at that meeting and I further discussed the matter with him by phone in the following weeks.

  22. Eric Anderson says:

    Perhaps its the “use of proceeds” or how our money is being spent that needs to be examined.

  23. Adam Lunn says:

    Mark, CalPers is a Leviathan that most cannot easily get away from. The Fire Department is currently getting those costs under control. Going into the future, if they play their cards right, those costs can be even less, but that all depends on how this issue plays out.

    Eric, plain and simple, the county has offered us less coverage for more money. County did say Lear would be staffed with PCF, but could not guarantee that would last beyond the first couple of years. With that being said, there are very few PCF with the Department already, so where are these mysterious PCF going to come from? On top of that, on call firefighters do not lower the insurance rates for those who live in the Indian Cove area of the city. Then there is the problem of those living in the Desert Heights area and Indian Cove area paying for the same service that those in town are getting and not getting the same quality service level. There may be money to run it as a PCF now, but in a couple years, there wont be enough money to run the downtown station the way it is.

    In regards to where the money is spent, I have looked at the numbers and cannot find anything that is out of the ordinary. The biggest costs are the full time personnel, and those costs are coming down, as mentioned above.

    • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

      Good description of CALPERS “Leviathan”, with that said how do we as a member entity balance the fact that CALPERS is underfunded to the tune of 45%, how many BILLIONS is that? Correct me if I am wrong but don’t the member entities such as the water district proportionately have to make that shortfall up. It looks to me that the current funding shortages are minor compared to what is coming. The only other answer I can think of is hyperinflation and that my friends will have a greater negative effect on personal value than making the hard cold correct decisions now. We ether kick the economic pain down on our offspring or we start making those prudent cuts, I don’t believe the private sector can carry much more, the burden is about to break the economic back bone of this should be wealthy nation.

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