Mayacamas VFD seeking volunteers for board and fire council work
Mayacamas Olds, president Mayacamas VFD at work as GM of Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
The Mayacamas Volunteer Fire Department did not fade away with the formation of the new Sonoma Valley Fire District, as incorrectly reported last month. The MVFD is not a fire department or even a fire district.
It is a 501(c)(3) corporation founded 40 years ago to bolster underfunded fire protection needs of residents of the southern reaches of the Mayacamas Mountains on the east side of Sonoma Valley up to the Napa County border. It is and intends to remain in the business of supporting the community fire fighters who protect the mountainous region on the eastern flanks of Sonoma Valley.
It did not go away.
It is one of the smallest fire fighting organizations in the county. The nine volunteers who live in the area work out of two Mayacamas stations covering 7,200 acres of steep hillside, rising from the valley floor to over 2,300 feet in five miles of road. Firehouse One sits at the intersection of Trinity and Cavedale roads; Firehouse Two is two miles away on Cavedale Road.
Often, volunteers pick up a piece of equipment at one of the stations and arrive at the scene before equipment and on-duty staff can be scrambled from Sonoma or Glen Ellen.
“Access is difficult and time consuming,” said Mayacamas Olds (her father named her after his beloved mountain), board president of MVFD. “It’s prone to extremes in weather with drought in the summer and fall and a heightened risk of fire, and storms in the winter.”
There were never enough residents living in the area to legally form a separate fire district entitled to share property taxes or assess their own parcel taxes, so the small Mayacamas volunteer firefighting unit became one of many small rural fire departments placed under the umbrella of County Service Area 40 and funded by the county. The MVFD relied on that funding until 1980, when residents decided the county support wasn’t enough. Since then, the non-profit has raised enough money to purchase equipment, train fire fighters and take care of the two fire stations.
While management and firefighting duties of the small unit were recently amalgamated into the newly formed Sonoma Valley Fire District, MVFD is continuing to raise money and help recruit supporters and staff.
“Our role is to support our local firemen, educate the community and ensure our fire department has everything we need to respond to emergency situations,” Olds said in a recent communication. “In a more normal year, we host the Starlight Auction, a picnic and a breakfast to fundraise and educate our community. We focus on purchasing fire engines and keeping our two fire houses up to date.” Those events are cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the last five years, Olds said, the non-profit has raised $250,000 from its annual Starlight Auction, nearly $360,000 through other annual fundraising, and hauled in another $340,000 from donations (approximate figures). That money drilled a new station well; bought a Pierce Type 1 structure engine; helped modify the roll up doors, framing and other needed work on both fire stations; paid off a $50,000 loan on one of the engines, bought a fire skid unit and generator for the new well; and this year is providing paving at one station and helping buy a new engine for next year.
Olds was raised at her family’s Sky Vineyards on top of Mt. Veeder, between Sonoma and Napa counties, overlooking both Sonoma and Napa cities. She is General Manager of Gloria Ferrar Caves and Vineyards. She brought her lifelong experience of the Mayacamas Mountains to supporting the volunteer fire department, joining the seven-person board of directors in January of 2019.
Directors Ellen Scarr and Carrie Castro are both leaving the board this year. Also, Olds said the person performing staff duties for the Mayacamas Fire Safe Council will be retiring this year.
“We would hope one of the board positions would help manage the mission of the fire safe council, attend other fire safe council meetings locally and help to put together a subcommittee of the board to drive the agenda of education and preparing our neighborhood for fire prevention and other emergencies.”
The board regularly meets on the second Tuesday of every month, meeting virtually since March.
“I’ve served on a few volunteer boards and this group of hard working, engaged hearts has been my favorite,” Castro said. “They care deeply about the homeowners on the mountain, they feel responsible for informing and assisting with preparation to save property, and they act to protect the health and safety of individuals in the small community and the firefighters.” Castro will be moving to Mendocino this year.
Castro’s work for the board included relaying health, safety and fire news through social media: Twitter, Nextdoor and Instagram. Visit the website at www.mayacamasvfd.org/.
“We have been successful at raising money, particularly after the 2017 fires when residents of our badly affected service area (as well as others in the broader community) were very generous with financial support, allowing us to purchase a fire engine (to replace a very old one), upgrade our emergency water storage, and do a bit of a remodel on the Trinity fire station, such that our firefighters have a much-needed comfortable place where they can sleep and eat during emergency situations,” Scarr said.
Both fire stations are currently undergoing roof replacements, improved plumbing from water storage and foundation work thanks to the fundraising.
“We have also used donations to have community events (such as our annual picnic and post-fire gatherings) which provide an opportunity to educate and support the community with regards to fire prevention, safety and home-hardening issues,” Scarr noted.
Board members are elected for a term of two years, with no term limits. “We look forward to welcoming new members of the community, who are willing to join this dedicated group of neighbors who are working to make Trinity and Cavedale Roads as ready and safe as can be as the danger of fire looms large every year.”
MVFD could use some help with website management, too, Olds said.
If you are interested in serving, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to MVFD at P.O. Box 225, Glen Ellen, CA 95442.