Opposition to suspension of LAHCFD authority and district consolidation

  • by: Neal Mielke
  • recipient: Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

We residents of Los Altos Hills and the greater LAHCFD area urge the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to reject proposals to suspend the LAHCFD Fire Commission's authority and "consolidate" the budget of the district with the rest of the county.

We need more protection against fire, not less. The County Fire Chief has highlighted the fire risk here. Insurance companies have been cancelling insurance here. We border extreme-risk areas owned by the MROSD and Palo Alto. The Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, destroyed by the 2017 Tubbs fire, was separated from the nearest high-risk area by more than a mile of low-risk terrain and a six-lane freeway. We have neither. Spreading the LAHCFD's budget around to other districts would increase the fire risk in the LAHCFD and in the bordering communities.

Suspending the LAHCFD's Fire Commission's authority would disrupt its ongoing operations in the middle of a series of catastrophic fire seasons. That could only worsen public safety. Fire mitigation efforts need local knowledge and support, which is best achieved through local involvement. Suspending the Fire Commission, which consists of local residents and elected representatives, would reduce local involvement. The recent management audit of the LAHCFD raised some points that deserve follow-up, but it contained nothing to justify such a radical action. The audit did not dispute that the LAHCFD's programs have been ones that served to reduce fire risk. It did not find evidence of malfeasance. The programs that it criticized had been widely publicized and reviewed with the County Fire Chief and the Board of Supervisors without objections being raised. All of the issues can be worked cooperatively.

The county's greatest wildfire threats come from lands managed by Cal Fire and park districts such as the MROSD. The County Fire Chief has called for increased coordination with those entities. We suggest that the Board of Supervisors put its energy into strengthening that coordination rather than weakening the LAHCFD.

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