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From the editor: The Fire Boss planes rejection
From the editor

From the editor: The Fire Boss planes rejection


Last week was Wellness Week in Calistoga, and maybe you took advantage of some of the deals offered by various spas and restaurants in town. Or just took some extra time to unwind and enjoy the spring weather.

I took a spontaneous moment to lay in the grass at Logvy Park, something I haven’t done in a really long while. I was enjoying the softness of the grass, the warmth of the sun, and watching puffy, white clouds float by… there’s a dog chasing a kite, a chef’s hat, birds nestling in trees, a fire hydrant… wait a minute, where did that come from?

Not far away, lurking just outside the periphery of my comfort zone, is the remembrance of things to come. My to-go bag is somewhere in the back of my car, and not up to date. And the thought of another evacuation leaves me with dread.

Fire Season. It’s part of our vocabulary, and the season is getting longer each year. It’s become an integral part of our way of life here, and the only other choice is to move.

My apprehension has been somewhat assuaged the last few months by proactive measures the city and county are undertaking. Calistoga has invested in digital fire mapping, which, is the most cutting edge technology the fire department could have in their arsenal at this point. Thank you Steve Campbell, and thank you to the city for the investment.

The city’s new AM radio station should be up and running about now as well.

And kudos to Mayor Chris Canning and the city for urging the county to follow in Calistoga’s footsteps, utilizing more Nixle alerts to keep us informed of important events.

I’ll also give a shout out to the Italian Fire Brigade at Castello di Amorosa for taking the initiative to protect their property, which in turn could turn out to save further spreading of wildfires.

A philanthropist in Angwin has also taken the initiative by offering the county $1.5 million towards two stand-by airplanes to assist in firefighting efforts. Perhaps you’ve been following the story, in which county supervisors rejected the proposal last week.

I’m not sure I entirely follow their reasoning. Supervisors said they have already invested in a helicopter to be stationed in Napa County, and pointed out the planes wouldn’t be helpful at night, when the fires seem to start. They also pointed out an addition half-million the county would have to fork over for the planes.

A couple of weeks ago, the county was asked to spend $42 million towards wildfire prevention, with supervisors agreeing that so many millions have been spent on wildfires after the fact, “This is not an option,” Board of Supervisors Chairperson Alfredo Pedroza said. “We always have to spend money after disasters, and we spend it in the millions of dollars. This is about spending it proactively … while it’s a bold ask, I think it’s a very appropriate ask.”

So what’s another half-million as the county's share for a couple of fire-fighting airplanes?

Cal Fire rejected the Boss airplane proposal, and I’m sure they have more reasons than expressed at the supervisor’s meeting last week when Cal Fire officials said it would slow down Cal Fire operations, and conflict with the county's fire-fighting helicopter. I'm no expert here, but this leaves me scratching my head, as the slow response from outstate support seemed part of the problem during the last few fires.

At this point I’d like to reiterate what I’ve already reported about Calistoga’s digital fire mapping, which will allow the Calistoga Fire Department to make decisions about where to deploy support in real time during a fire, without having to wait for Cal Fire’s instructions.

Seems to me, minutes count during a fire. Minutes can mean the difference between saving a house, a life. I’m not an air traffic controller, but I do know that commercial planes are instructed not to fly over wildfire zones. So how many planes fighting a wildfire is too many?

Maybe I'm naïve, but seems to me there is more to the story than we're hearing. 

You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at 942-4035 or

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The Weekly Calistogan Editor

Cynthia Sweeney has been editor of The Weekly Calistogan since July, 2018. Previously, she was a reporter for the St. Helena Star, and North Bay Business Journal. She also spent a significant amount of time freelancing in Hawaii.

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