By guest writer, Leonard Thompson, Fire Chief, Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District
There continues to be much speculation and incorrect information pertaining to weed abatement in the City of Cotati and the unincorporated areas of the Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District. Resources to address the weed issue are sorely lacking. There is currently one Battalion Chief handling the enormous challenge and faced with competing demands. However, RAFPD has not abrogated its responsibility, so we have assigned a Captain to assist our Battalion Chief in his efforts. Additionally, we are currently working with the City of Cotati and County Fire Prevention to remedy the situation. Rancho’s Board of Directors will soon be authorizing a district ordinance to clear weeds with private contractors when property owners fail to adhere to the law. The property owners will then be assessed the cost of clearing those weeds. This ordinance is similar to an ordinance already in effect in the City of Cotati. This is a process that takes place each year during the months of May through July and includes noticing property owners for compliance, allowing time for compliance, re-inspection and, if the owner fails to comply, an appeals process and eventually forced clearance.
However, there is a larger issue facing this community and the lack of funding for weed compliance is only the tip of the iceberg. As we move through the next three to five years, Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District will no longer fiscally be able to provide even the minimal service it currently provides and that situation is getting worse. The parcel tax remains at an average of $40 and that hasn’t changed for 25 years! Casino revenue (at $300K per year) will possibly be eliminated in the next two years and Sonoma State University refuses to officially partner with RAFPD even though it places a 10 percent response burden on already tapped resources. If this trend continues, Rancho Adobe will be forced to close fire stations in order to provide even minimal emergency service. The truth of the matter is, the parcel tax must be increased, casino revenue must be retained and Sonoma State must engage in a more productive manner with RAFPD. The community’s support is absolutely necessary for RAFD’s survival. I respectfully ask for your support.