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Anderson Valley, Mendocino County--

It's hard work, it's dangerous work; sometimes there's thanks, but mostly there's not; the hours are the hours of trouble, which is to say unpredictable but you had better be ready at all times; and for all that the pay is only so-so. That's the life of a fireman. Correction, fire person.

So on top of all that, do you need fire house break- ins, vandalism to equipment, and threats?

Ask Chief Jim Trubia and the Anderson Valley Fire Department, because that's been going on since April of this year; and recently it's intensified.

The latest incident occurred last Saturday evening when a call came in for a brush fire in downtown Philo. Philo is located on Highway 128 about 5 miles west of Booneville, which is where the Anderson Valley fire house is.

Now a downtown brush fire is unusual in itself, but when personnel arrived at the fire house, they heard the sound of running water.

"Someone drained the tank, which is 200 to 300 gallons they put on the floor."

The fire in Philo turned out to be a small arson fire that was put out by locals before the fire department arrived. Was the fire related to the draining of water from the fire truck? "Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't," said Trubia. He said they're looking at it.

Two other break-ins have occurred within the last six weeks. The first time the rear door to the fire house was broken down, but nothing was taken. The second time Snap-On sockets were taken. "Really nice ones," said the Chief.

When last weekend's vandalism occurred, it was to the last working engine in the fire house. "That is a story by itself," said Trubia.

The short version of the story is this: Two weeks before the most recent incident the fire department was called to a fire in nearby Hendy Woods. The engine oil pump was lose--though fire personnel did not know it at the time--and when water was pumped for the fire, the oil was pumped out of the engine, ruining it. Trubia admitted the situation was frustrating. "It was a long walk, plus you really shouldn't be standing in the middle of a wildland fire," he said.

That put one of three fire trucks out of commission.

Another engine was put out of commission during an 18 -acre fire in Yorkville at the east end of the Anderson Valley. A pump shaft blew, putting it out of service.

If that is not enough woe for a small fire department that covers 200 square miles, including a lot of timber land that is very hot and dry in Summer, then there is this: Chief Trubia has been regularly receiving phone threats.

He is reluctant to say he knows for sure the motive for all these actions, but a proposed new tax to benefit the fire department appears related. "I don't think we've had these problems in the recent past like we're having right now."

The tax proposal will appear on the November ballot, and there has already been some public protest about it. The phone threats to the Chief are directly related to the proposed tax. "The threats over the phone come probably once a week," said Trubia, "and they are quite serious."

Houses are assessed per unit based on county solid waste codes. Nothing personal in that. Most houses will pay $72 per year. But Trubia himself is in charge of assessing commercial property based on square footage and hazardous material storage. Businesses using large amounts of pesticides or propane were assessed greater taxes.


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