Posted by: Green Knight | September 4, 2010

Fire Station Closure Endangers Marine Mammals?

Station house 52 on the western Marin headlands just north of San Francisco is the only one available to respond in that area, known as Fort Cronkhite, which houses the Marine Mammal Center, a group that rescues and rehabilitates stranded, sick, or injured dolphins, seals, and sea lions.  Other conservation organizations are also located nearby.  The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is considering closing this station, which would leave Ft. Cronkhite only accessible to other Marin County fire departments through a one-way tunnel.

I have been in contact with the Marine Mammal Center about this issue.  Since some of their “guests” are likely on the endangered or threatened lists, I advised them to contact environmental attorneys with the National Park Service to see if this might invoke the Endangered Species Act, as it would constitute the removal of an existing layer of protection for those animals.  I’m no lawyer, Ghod forbid, but I’ve worked with them enough that I think the avenue worth exploring.  Imagine watching your place in flames, and having to wait for fire engines to get through a one-way tunnel, where a rear-ender may be obstructing traffic, or a driver who just had a heart attack, etc.  I had a nice tour of the Center in 1984; they do a great job!  Some of the animals can’t be released back into the ocean, and I specifically recall a big old blind sea lion (if memory serves, his name was Charlie.)

Should you happen to live in that area, make a few phone calls.  I’ll post the article from the local paper in a comment below.

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Responses

  1. Feds Might Close San Francisco Fire Station
    Marin Independent Journal
    August 31, 2010
    By Mark Prado, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.
    Aug. 31—A one-engine firehouse in the Marin Headlands might be shuttered later this year in an effort by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to save money.
    The GGNRA is looking to eliminate the Presidio Fire Department, which would include the closure of Station 52 at Fort Cronkhite. The station and its 11 personnel serve Rodeo Beach, the Marine Mammal Center and Headlands Institute, which host thousands of visitors each year.
    “If we are closed, it means visitors will not be as safe. It’s that simple,” said firefighter Anders Arne, who works at the station.
    The GGNRA and the Presidio Trust share the cost of operating the department. A 2007 efficiency study noted neighboring fire departments could provide fire service at Fort Baker and
    the Marin Headlands on a contract basis, saving as much as $750,000 annually.
    GGNRA officials said they are in negotiations with the Southern Marin Fire Protection District to provide service.
    “There is nothing formalized yet,” said Alex Picavet, spokeswoman for the recreation area. “It is still being worked on.”
    Arne noted that Southern Marin’s stations operate on the other side of the Bunker Road tunnel — a tunnel that drivers have to wait up to five minutes to pass through. Because of its narrowness, it can only accommodate one-way traffic.
    “You wonder how long it will take them to get to the Headlands in an emergency,” Arne said.
    Southern Marin fire officials said those issues are being worked on.
    “We are working on a system to allow the light to be activated so we can control it,” said Southern Marin Battalion Chief Bob Briare, adding that his crews and Station 52 have enjoyed a good working relationship.
    “We support them, and they are in a tough spot now,” he said.
    Picavet said a trained emergency medical technician would be deployed to the Headlands on a daily basis to handle medical problems and that all of the GGNRA law enforcement and rangers have at least basic first-aid training.
    As plans move ahead to close Station 52, the issue of providing fire protection in the Headlands was highlighted by an arbiter’s ruling last week that pitted the GGNRA against the firefighters union over staffing levels.
    The union argued that the GGNRA did not employ enough firefighters to provide required coverage for its areas, including Fort Baker.
    The arbiter, William Gould of Stanford Law School, agreed. He concluded that “current staffing does not allow firefighters to reach portions of the GGNRA and therefore to comply with extant staffing obligations.”
    Gould ruled the GGNRA was not required to hire firefighters to come into compliance, but it had to at least provide adequate staffing through mandatory mutual aid agreements.
    Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at mprado@marinij.com
    ________________________________________
    To see more of The Marin Independent Journal or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.marinij.com/.
    Copyright © 2010, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.


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