Officials for the Russian River Fire Protection District hope that a simpler measure and a door-to-door campaign will mean success for a parcel tax measure on the June 8 ballot.
Measure F, a second attempt to get voters to approve a parcel tax in two years, would raise $600,000 a year in the district, which encompasses 18 square miles in the lower Russian River resort area that has about 5,000 permanent residents.
Without the tax, officials say the district will have to reduce the number of on-duty firefighters, who also provide ambulance service to many of the communities along the Russian River and in remote areas of Sonoma County.
"Quite simply, it is difference between life and death of the Russian River Fire Protection District," said Fire Chief Sean Grinnell, the district's former fire chief.
Grinnell left the job a month and a half ago and a decision on whether he will be replaced won't be made until after the election, said Frank Lambert, president of the Russian River fire board.
Many west Sonoma County residents say they support a parcel tax for emergency services. "I'd vote for it," said Brackett Clark of Monte Rio. "Out here we need all the emergency services we can get."
"It'd be something I would support, plus I worry about my house burning down; it's a wood house and it's burned before," said Ross Bickford of Monte Rio.
"We need emergency services out here," said Danny Lentz of Rio Nido. "The cutbacks that Schwarzenegger is doing is just ridiculous."
Lambert said he believes with the support of the community and without organized opposition, the measure has a good chance to pass.
"I feel it is very positive. There is a lot of support from the surrounding communities that know how important the ambulance is — people in Cazadero and Occidental," Lambert said.
A committee of supporters is working from a small downtown Guerneville office to get information to voters, Lambert said.
"We're doing a phone survey, making sure that everyone is informed, walking door to door and we are setting up tables at Safeway and greeting people," Lambert said.
The fire stations now are staffed with a paramedic, firefighter and fire captain. Without the additional funding, the stations would have two people on duty, official said.
Under the measure, owners of single-family homes would pay $140 a year, with $70 for additional homes on a property. Agricultural land would be taxed $175 and industrial land, $350.
Voters in 2008 rejected a parcel tax that doubled home taxes to $80 and also had an escalation clause that could have pushed it to $160.
Passage requires two-thirds voter approval.
For the past five years, Grinnell was the shared fire chief for Bodega Bay and the Russian River district, but his contract with Russian River district expired at the end of March. The district had been paying him $49,880 a year for his services. He is now solely the fire chief for Bodega Bay.
"I am regretful," Grinnell said. "On the one hand I look at it as a failure on my part to continue doing what I was doing, but I wasn't able to provide 100 percent of my services to either side. Being a shared chief made it difficult."