Scotts Valley Fire District (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Santa Cruz County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) approved the merger of the fire departments that serve Scotts Valley and Branciforte on Aug. 2.

Scotts Valley Councilmember Allan Timms said he was glad to see the Scotts Valley Fire District absorb its beleaguered neighbor.

“The Branciforte fire department was failing,” he said, noting SVFD was already handling a lot of their paramedic calls anyway. “We have the capacity to pick them up.”

In February 2022, the Branciforte Fire Protection District (BFPD) formally asked to become part of the Scotts Valley department. Branciforte argued it would result in more efficient delivery of fire protection and emergency services to its 1,700 residents spread across 745 parcels and 5,800 acres.

“It’s just good for everybody,” Timms agreed. “The organization that we have here is going to raise the level of service to Branciforte.”

The BFPD came into being when it split off from the Scotts Valley Fire Protection District back in 1950.

“Since inception, BFPD has relied on volunteers to serve and meet the fire protection needs of the Branciforte community,” noted LAFCO Executive Officer Joe Serrano in a report. “Over the years, however, there has been a significant decline in the number of volunteers. In 2013, BFPD had 41 volunteers. In comparison, BFPD only had nine volunteers in 2022, and of those nine volunteers, none of them lived in the Branciforte area.”

SVFD’s new chief, Mark Correira, said last Wednesday’s decision was one more step in the reorganization process.

“If everything continues on this path, we would begin serving the Branciforte community before the end of the year,” he said. “Once reorganized, the three full-time firefighters in Branciforte will become Scotts Valley Fire District firefighters and would respond from one of the two Scotts Valley fire stations.”

With additional staff, people beyond the two communities, in places like Pasatiempo and rural Santa Cruz County, will benefit too, Correira added.

“For Branciforte, their current response is one career firefighter/EMT and a volunteer firefighter/EMT,” he said. “After the reorganization, the residents of Branciforte will receive at least three career firefighter/paramedics for all emergencies, and will have career administrative staff administering the District.”

During emergencies, paramedics can provide a higher level of care than EMTs—including cardiac monitoring, administering life-saving medication, placing a breathing tube into a patient’s windpipe, and other advanced skills, Correira explained.

“A paramedic receives 1,200 hours of training, where an EMT receives 120-150 hours,” Correira said.

Planning has already been underway for two years, he noted.

“We are now focusing on the finer details like how the Branciforte staff will learn the Scotts Valley Fire way, as well as the Scotts Valley firefighters learning the Branciforte (approach),” he said. “We will be inventorying all of the equipment, preparing to transfer ownership of the equipment, as well as developing a plan to extend public outreach to the Branciforte community.”

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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