By David Bergman
The Los Altos Hills County Fire District (LAHCFD) was formed in 1939. The District is composed of: 1) The Town of Los Altos Hills and, 2) The unincorporated areas, (comprising about 30 percent of the area outside of the Town of Los Altos Hills) generally referred to as the Country Club, Arastradero/Alpine Roads, San Antonio Hills and .
The Fire District is an area of about 12.03 square miles interfacing some of the most potentially dangerous wildland fire regions in the county.
The District receives a large portion of its revenues from property taxes in the district. The District’s mission is to protect the lives, property and environment from fires, disasters and medical emergencies or incidents – through education, prevention and emergency response services. The focus of all expenditures from tax revenues is for fire protection services for the District.
The District is governed by a seven-member Board of Commissioners, appointed by the elected County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors for four-year terms. Appointments to the Commission are made to provide for equal representation on the basis of population between residents of incorporated andunincorporated territories. The Town of Los Altos Hills City Council provides recommendations on the nomination of applicants. Commissioners must be residents of the District. The County Board of Supervisors delegates all of its powers to the Commission to manage the affairs of the District.
The LAHCFD El Monte Fire Station is located on the campus of Foothill College and provides 24/7coverage with a Battalion Chief and every fire fighter trained to at least Emergency Medical Technicianlevel (EMT), and each shift maintains a fully qualified paramedic.
The LAHCFD provides the following services: 1) emergency response, 2) fire prevention, 3) medical response and life-saving, 4) rescue, 5) upgraded water mains and hydrants, 6) emergency generatorsfor both water agencies in the event of power outages enabling for water to be pumped, 7) fuel management, including enforcement of weed and brush abatement regulations, residential brush chipping, dead pine tree removal, and Eucalyptus tree pruning and removal.
In the past five years, Emergency Preparedness needs have been addressed by providing Personal Emergency Preparedness classes and support for the development of a Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) – currently over 150 members are trained and ready to roll during disasters. Town and County residents receive extensive emergency preparedness training provided by an Emergency Preparedness Coordinator paid for by the District. Neighborhood Network educational programs are coordinated by the District.
The fire district funds CERT Emergency Disaster supply trailers that are stored at the and at the .
The annual budget for services is prepared, adopted and then submitted by the Commission to the elected County Board of Supervisors for final approval.
Because the district may be financially responsible in the event of a large disaster, natural or otherwise, they have voted to set aside a portion of each year’s budget to be held in “Reserves.” These reserves, currently at $11,000,000, would be used to offset some of the potentially devastating costs associated with the next disaster. The district is mindful that the 1985 Los Altos Hills Liddicoat Lane & Arastradero Road fire cost millions, and that the resulted in and economic disaster costing $1.5 billon.
Since 1996, the Commission recognized the benefits of consolidation of services and has contracted out the fire fighting and emergency medical response portion of its activities to the centralized Santa Clara County Fire Department. In this way, the District can enjoy benefits of local control and planning while at the same time benefiting from the consolidation, and many of the advantages such as mutual aid offered by the accredited county fire department.
The benefits of having an outstanding fire department offering broad expertise, equipment, logistics and mutual aid capabilities provides the District with the protection that the residents require and deserve.
For more information on services offered and classes, please see the Los Altos Hills County Fire District website: www.LAHCFD.org