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Ripon’s choice: Pay higher tax for fire service or get burned by higher insurance premiums
RIPON fire station two
Built almost a decade ago, the second fire station in the City of Ripon is unmanned because the Ripon Consolidated Fire District budget has deteriorated to the point they only have three firefighters on duty. Given an engine requires a minimum of two firefighters, that means only one engine, which is stationed at the district’s headquarters on Stockton Avenue, is manned at any given time.

I do not live in Ripon.

Although if did for nine months in 1993 live 1.5 miles outside the city on North Ripon Road.

I share this to make it clear I have no skin in the game when it comes to the current Ripon Consolidated Fire District parcel tax election being conducted by mail.

I do own a home.

Or I should say, I will own a home in 7 years when I finish paying off my 20-year mortgage.

I also happen to live three blocks from the City of Manteca’s Powers Avenue fire station.

I would not be a happy camper if my house caught on fire and a Manteca Fire engine arrived on scene with two firefighters.

And before they could do anything of consequence to knock down the fire, they had to wait 10 to 15 minutes for an engine company to arrive from Ripon.

And if there was someone possibly inside my house — let’s say my granddaughter and two of my great-grandkids — I would be beyond furious that the firefighters my taxes pay for were forced by federal regulations to wait to enter my burning home until adequate firefighting personnel arrived from a neighboring jurisdiction some 5 plus miles away.

That is exactly the scenario that a homeowner, business, school, or care facility faces in Ripon.

The RCFD lacks the financial means to have more than three fighters working at any given time.

That means in the event of a structure blaze when a minimum of two firefighters are needed to enter a burning building that also requires a minimum of two firefighters outside, Ripon Fire has to wait for a Manteca Fire engine company to show up before they can do anything of consequence.

In all likelihood, it probably means far more damage will occur to a structure and its contents than need be.

Loss of life is a possibility, but the odds are that is relatively remote.

Do not misunderstand.

Most of Ripon’s fire calls, like any urban fire agency, are for medical emergencies and accidents.

The department’s ambulance service delivers. And when they are on a call, a nearby service — quite often the Manteca District Ambulance — positions a unit closer to Ripon so it can respond there and still be available for a Manteca call.

Ripon Fire does the same for Manteca District Ambulance.

That is not to only to imply Ripon’s firefighters aren’t professional and capable. It’s just that on structure fires there are regulations in place for everyone’s safety including firefighters.

So, the question is simple: As a homeowner, would you be willing to pay $21 to $23 a month, depending upon the square footage of your house, to bring Ripon Consolidated Fire District’s Fire protection up to par?

Let’s say are willing to take your chances that your home won’t catch on fire and say “no” to a parcel tax hike.

There is one more question: How much do you pay a year in homeowner’s insurance?

This is a serious question.

Insurance companies today are deploying drones, scanning data bases, and looking at all risks to determine their exposure.

Last year, homeowners in high risk areas in California saw their premiums increase 10 percent.

Much of it has to do with wildfire and flood exposure.

But there is another driver of insurance rates than can boost your premiums into the stratosphere.

It’s a fire agency’s rating conferred by the Insurance Services Organization (ISO).

The rating — based on apparatus, manpower, water suppression capabilities (supply and pressure) and things of that nature — is used by insurers to determine their risks exposure in underwriting policies

Your home policy premiums can also reflect the proximity of a fire hydrant or a fire pond to your  home. That also goes for your distance to a fire manned station.

Despite the RCFD having two stations in Ripon — one manned and one unmanned — they cannot effectively fight a fire until an engine company arrives from Manteca some 10 to 15 minutes away depending upon the closest available engine.

It essentially means, for underwriting purposes, the City of Ripon doesn’t have urban-level coverage for serious structure fires thanks to RCFD effectively being deprived of the financial residues needed to have a minimum of four firefighters on duty.

The odds are an ISO review of the Ripon Consolidated Fire District could result in a rating that could easily balloon residential insurance premiums in the neighborhood of $250 to $278 more a year.

It means if you are against a parcel tax increase because you don’t think it is essential for RCFD to have, you will likely end up paying that and possibly more anyway through increased insurance premiums.

And if your house or business catches in fire, be prepared that it may cost you more and take longer to recover.

Nobody likes taxes.

But they are what pay for basic services.

I usually hate arguments for taxes that break down a tax increase in terms of what it could cost per day.

Even so, it is pretty compelling to understand the price to raise the funds needed so RCFD personnel can effectively use their training in a timely manner to protect lives and property will cost around 70 cents a day.

Is your home and personal belongings — and possibility the well-being of a loved one or a neighbor — worth spending that kind of money?

Or does it make sense to send that much money instead to an insurance company?

The choice seems obvious.

But then again, I have no skin in the game.

And I also can expect the firefighters in Manteca to be able to do what they are trained to do if my house is on fire, instead of having to bide their time for 10 to 15 minutes for an engine to arrive from another city.

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.