Who’s Going to Respond to Hwy 36 After Post Mountain Fire Department Closes?
Carpenter reached out to us because he wanted drivers along Hwy 36 and residents who live in the area to know that there could be long delays in emergency medical services (EMS) and crews responding to accidents, fires, and medical calls. Post Mountain VFD’s former area of responsibility stretched along State Route 36 roughly from the top of South Fork Mountain about 10 miles east of Mad River to the Shasta County line.
“Tell people to be careful,” he explained. “They got a long wait for EMS and fire probably an hour…I…want people driving 36 to know if they slide off that icy road into a ditch, it is going to be a long time before someone gets to them.”
Carpenter said that the problem isn’t money. The department which started in 1976 gets money from a fee levied on those in their service area.
“Our fire department is well funded…We got plenty of nice equipment,” Carpenter said. Then he repeated, “We just don’t have any people.”
In the remote areas surrounding Hwy 36, volunteer fire crews provide much-needed assistance for more than just fires. Carpenter described responding to vehicle accidents, doing rescue missions, covering medical needs, and, of course, putting out fires.
The first that many in the community knew that the Post Mountain VFD was no longer in service was on February 13. Carpenter described listening on the scanner as the report of a hash lab exploding came from near Wildwood, a small town in Trinity County not far from Hwy 36.
As flames consumed the structure and the suspects reportedly fled, “Dispatch paged Post Mountain Fire to respond,” Carpenter explained. But then, he said, his department that had been responding to scratchy radio transmissions, pages, and phone calls for 42 years was still. No one picked up their radio and reported into dispatch.
Instead, into the silent void, the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department spoke over the radio to dispatch saying that Post Mountain Fire Department was no longer functioning. Another fire department, the Hayfork Volunteer Fire Department had to stretch its area of responsibility and cover the explosion and resulting fire.
Carpenter said it is possible that the department could reopen. “It depends on if we can get some volunteers up for training,” he explained.
He then added, “It is tough. People don’t have the volunteer mentality anymore. They just don’t want to get involved.”
And, he said, it isn’t just the fire department that is affected. Part of his responsibilities is to gather money to work on community roads in the Post Mountain area. “Normally, we get $8,000 to $10,000 donated,” he said. This year was different.
“I sent out 1010 postcards asking for money for the road department,” he explained. “We asked for $50. We got back 49 responses.” They raised a little over $3000.
Carpenter wants to think that people will step up to help keep the fire department open but even then it will take time to get volunteers trained. “Until the Forest Service staffs Forest Glen later this spring,” he explained. “There is nobody else out here. Hayfork will help out but they can’t always respond.”