In 2017 the landscape of firefighting changed in Sonoma County. Over the last several years we have witnessed 601,825 acres burn resulting in the tragic loss of 39 lives and 11,535 structures. With the increase in wildfire danger, we knew we needed to do things differently. This meant working alongside of our government partners to increase the resources needed to combat these new threats that our community faces. It also means creating a flexible way to be innovative and nimble while generating resources that government cannot always provide. This is where the Santa Rosa Fire Foundation comes in.
The Santa Rosa Fire Foundation was formed in the wake of the Tubbs/Nuns, Kincade, LNU Lightning, and Glass Fires in Sonoma County. Over the years opportunities arose from philanthropic organizations to donate funds to help enhance the Santa Rosa Fire Department’s capacity for responding to large scale wildfires that impacted or threatened the community. Because of existing governance, the City of Santa Rosa is unable to accept donated funds directly, so the concept of developing a 501 (c) (3) Non-Profit Organization was born to allow for new financial resources to benefit the City of Santa Rosa.
Santa Rosa and Sonoma County have encountered devastating wildfires nearly every year since 2017. This has led the Santa Rosa Fire Department to the necessity of a significant change of business model in how it delivers service to the community and its employees. Specifically, this results in the need to ensure the appropriate facilities and equipment are available to respond to these large-scale wildland incidents and to ensure that the employees are mentally and physically prepared to face all aspects of emergency response. Concurrently, the Santa Rosa Fire Department has implemented a Recruitment and Diversity Strategic Plan, which makes an upstream investment in the community to attract local talent to the fire service that is representative of the community the Department serves.
The Santa Rosa Fire Department is funded via the City of Santa Rosa General Fund and proceeds of Measure O (¼ cent public safety sales tax). While ample, this funding is largely dedicated to employee costs and is shared with the needs of the entire City. This leaves a gap in funding when attempting to make a wholesale organizational change at many levels, which is where the Santa Rosa Fire Foundation can help. The Santa Rosa Fire Foundation will leverage the generosity of the community to aid in closing these funding gaps and allowing the Santa Rosa Fire Department to institute organizational changes and enhancements at a much more prolific pace. The Santa Rosa Fire Department is the largest municipal fire department in the County of Sonoma, so ensuring the resiliency of this department is critical in our community’s fight against wildland fires.
The Santa Rosa Fire Foundation looks forward to working collectively with the community to augment the historically exemplary service delivery of the Santa Rosa Fire Department now and into the future. We are stronger together.