An annual report on county fire protection agencies outlines the work of the Arcata Fire Protection District, which responded to a record-setting 2,414 calls for service in 2012. Released by the Humboldt County Fire Chiefs Association, the report includes a summary of the district’s work. It details the various types of calls that made up a seven percent increase from the previous year.
The district includes McKinleyville along with Arcata and Manila, a 62-square-mile area. It provides responses to medical emergency, vehicle accident and hazardous materials incidents as well as fires.
Medical responses are actually the district’s most voluminous category, with 1,095 of them carried out last year. The district also responded to 51 vehicle accidents and 78 hazardous material incidents.
There were 34 structure fire and 26 vegetation fire responses in 2012 and 65 responses to other fire-related incidents. Various other types of service responses accounted for 1,066 calls.
The district’s volunteers generated thousands of hours of work on incident responses, training, maintenance and fundraising. The district is staffed by 25 volunteers and 22 career firefighters.
At the end of the year, District Chief John MacFarland retired after six years at his post. Justin McDonald acted as interim chief until last June, when former Assistant Chief Desmond Cowan was appointed to take MacFarland’s place.
In an interview, Cowan said quick medical responses are enabled by the number and distribution of the district’s three stations in McKinleyville, on Janes Road across from the Mad River Community Hospital and downtown Arcata.
“Frequently, we can get there ahead of an ambulance and then let the paramedics take over – we have excellent working relationships with those folks,” he said.
The significant growth in service calls can loosely be attributed to age demographics. “The area is growing slowly but the population as a whole is aging and people require more services as they age,” said Cowan.
About one-third of the district’s calls are in McKinleyville and Cowan said the majority of its career firefighters live there.
The district is also looking toward the future and the release of its Strategic Plan is imminent. By late this month or early September, a draft of the plan is expected to be released and it will anticipate service needs in what Cowan described as a “roadmap for our future.”