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Rewards, hurdles in northern Sonoma County fire merger

  • San Antonio volunteer firefighter Matt Pellow yells for more water as he battles a blaze on Sunday, Sept.8, 2013 in Sonoma. San Antonio is one of 5 volunteer companies in Sonoma County. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

RETHINKING FIRE SERVICES

Part 1: Future hazy for Sonoma County's firefighters

Part 2: Rewards, hurdles in northern Sonoma County fire merger

Part 3: Sonoma County's new fire chief arrives at time of change

Part 4: Sonoma County's firefighting network differs from neighbors

The idea of one huge northern Sonoma County fire district offers potential benefits, but the path is complicated, with financial and organizational obstacles to overcome and the identities of independent districts in the balance.

It's an option that could turn a 500-square-mile area now supervised by four fire chiefs into one jurisdiction with a single chief.

The new district would cover a third of Sonoma County, stretching from the coast range to the borders of Mendocino, Lake and Napa counties, and south toward greater Windsor. It would include the cities of Healdsburg and Cloverdale, numerous rural communities, Highway 101, upscale winery and vineyard regions, Lake Sonoma and The Geysers geothermal fields on the Sonoma-Lake county border.

If approved, it would be the largest fire service merger in modern county history. Supporters say the idea is born of a dire need.

Cloverdale and Geyserville districts are struggling with tighter budgets, fewer volunteers and increasing calls for help. Those two agencies and Healdsburg's department all work together so much in their expansive corner of the county that it seems like common sense to join forces, Cloverdale Fire Chief Jason Jenkins said.

“Cloverdale, Geyserville and Healdsburg were looking at opportunities to share resources and provide a stronger volunteer workforce for our community,” Jenkins said.

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