BONNY DOON - Their chairs in a circle to facilitate a temperate discussion, residents, firefighters and county supervisor Neal Coonerty talked fire protection at a meeting in this rural mountainous community Wednesday night. The informational meeting set by the Rural Bonny Doon Association was largely civil. But it is clear tension lingers between Cal Fire Chief John Ferreira and a few board members of the Bonny Doon Volunteer Fire/Rescue. The latest flare-up occurred when Cal Fire said it was moving an engine from Bonny Doon to Felton for the winter, just months after relocating it there, year-round, to boost fire protection.
The agency said it would leave its firefighters there, full-time, but that they would share a county-owned engine with the volunteers. Russ Mackey of Friends of Bonny Doon Fire questioned the holdup.
"How come we can't get a garage up here?" he said. "In January of '09, we started the dialogue; I've been working on this ever since. We need to make it happen."
Ferreira said the decision to yank the engine in the off-season was made because the volunteer group was fighting their plan to build a structure to house it, adjacent to the existing McDermott Station.
"To make a long story short, we could never come to an agreement with Bonny Doon Fire," he said. "So we decided instead of spending $100,000 and going to court because the group is protesting the building, which they now want, we made the decision to staff the county engine in the county building."
After the meeting, Ferreira said there are five engines in Bonny Doon in the winter, and six in the summer, which is sufficient for normal daily operations. When something major occurs, like the Martin Fire, the standard staffing is never enough, he said.
Ferreira said the soured relationship between Cal Fire and some volunteers was unfortunate.
Buel Proffitt, a former volunteer, drew applause by saying that those involved in protecting the community need to build teamwork.
"I'm simply disgusted with the situation," he said. "We have tremendous resources why can't we work together?"
The engine and firefighters was brought to Bonny Doon after the Local Agency Formation Commission denied a request to create an independent fire district there, and people felt they were not getting the same level of service as other county areas, Supervisor Neal Coonerty said.
"These people are here winter and summer to fight fires and respond to medical calls and that is good for Bonny Doon," Coonerty said.
LAFCO said an independent fire district would siphon too much money from other areas. The volunteer group sued LAFCO, but Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann last month sided with LAFCO. It was clear Wednesday that some have not relinquished the drive for their own district.
"The battle goes on," Mackey said. "We are very glad to have Cal Fire here until we get a district."
The county contracts with Cal Fire to provide fire protection services in the unincorporated areas. There are two stations in the area, one on Martin Road and one on Empire Grade Road and Felton Empire.
Ken Gilbert, a retired Cal Fire firefighter, said the relationship between volunteers and Cal Fire has been great, and that the area has more engines than it did in earlier years.
We are much better off than we used to be," he said.
Cal Fire Deputy Chief Kathleen Lineberry said the volunteer department bought an engine two years ago, and that Bonny Doon has one more engine than Cal Fire considers necessary for the size of the community. She said Cal Fire and volunteers rely on each other. Lineberry said another meeting is set for 7 p.m. Dec. 7, at Bonny Doon Elementary, to explain the structure of county fire services.

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