Kirkwood Volunteer Fire Department: Frequently Asked Questions

Kirkwood Volunteer Fire Department 2024 Survey Supplement – FAQ


Why am I being asked about my opinion as it relates to the KVFD?

The KMPUD Board is concerned about the operational and financial structure of the KVFD. Due to the nature of volunteerism, the quality of service and the ability to have a department that provides any fire or emergency medical service are highly dependent on the availability and training of our volunteers, which ebbs and flows over time.

The primary way we can guarantee a level of service is by hiring firefighting staff. To do this, we would have to raise new funds. There are options of service level and resulting expense to consider, as well as ways in which the cost could be allocated to the community.

Is there an urgency to make a decision now?

Yes. First, the current model cannot be sustained. The stipend paid to volunteers is outpacing the money available to fund them. The KMPUD could reduce the stipend to decrease costs, at the risk of reducing the number of shifts covered. Second, the ability to even keep the KVFD operating relies on specific skills and training experiences, such as those of our Fire Chief. If our Fire Chief were to cease volunteering, it would be difficult to maintain current operations. Third, depending on the paths chosen, it can take months or years to implement and realize the benefit of choices made.

If there is an urgency, why was action not taken sooner?

The KMPUD Board voted to increase the stipends paid to volunteers, with the hopes of encouraging more people to sign up for shifts in 2022 and 2023. Then, in July 2023, the KMPUD board attempted, through Measure E, a proposed option for modifying the funding and structure of the fire department, which the Kirkwood community overwhelmingly voted against. This would have created a Community Facilities District (CFD) and a tax funding structure for the KVFD.

If the Kirkwood community voted against Measure E, why is this being discussed again so soon?

While Measure E was voted down, the general feedback the KMPUD received was that the community would like to have, and would likely support increased funding for, fire and emergency medical services in Kirkwood. The KMPUD is continuing to explore options to meet this desire.

What is the current timeline for taking action?

The survey results will be summarized, and recommendations will be made to the KMPUD Board at the March 8, 2024 Board Meeting. The KMPUD Board will then discuss the recommendations and put together a plan for moving forward on which the Kirkwood community will have an opportunity to provide input.

Is Kirkwood unique? How do other small, rural communities operate and finance fire departments?

California has 740 fire departments, 20% of which are all volunteer departments and 17% are primarily volunteer departments often run with 1 paid chief and occasionally a few additional paid firefighters.

Here are a few examples we have collected information, and we will add more as possible:

Eastern Alpine (Alpine County) is staffed with a full-time, paid Fire Chief, and volunteer firefighters. The salary for the Fire Chief is paid for through the County’s general budget. They have started a new program where Eastern Alpine equipment and volunteers will spend days or weeks as a strike team to support CalFire or the Forest Service to fight wildfires. This can generate revenue for their department income for volunteer firefighters. This is a supplemental activity, and the Fire Chief determines whether the department has equipment and staff available to support these firefighting efforts, while still maintaining service in their area.

Bear Valley (Alpine County) has a substation of the County’s Sheriff’s Office located on their premises. This office operates both police and fire services in Bear Valley. There are 4 full-time deputies / firefighters (i.e., these people are both law enforcement and firefighters), 1 volunteer Fire Chief, and about 8 volunteer firefighters. The 4 full-time deputies are paid for from the County for their police service. The firefighting part of their work is paid for through a tax. The tax is opened for a vote every 10 years and was last approved by voters in 2019 for $582 per residential single family / condo (in addition to rates for other unit types). Similar to Eastern Alpine, Bear Valley supplements its income by sending its equipment and firefighters out as strike teams to support CalFire or the Forest Service.

How does having a fire department relate to my property insurance?

An independent company, ISO, serves insurance companies, communities, fire departments, insurance regulators, and others by providing information about fire department risk and plays an important role in the underwriting process for determining your property insurance.

Every five years, ISO collects and evaluates information from our community on their structure fire suppression capabilities and assigns a Public Protection Classification (PPC) grade. Points are assigned and weighted in 3 primary categories: Water Supply, Communications and Fire Department Equipment / Personnel.

In 2023, and as in past years, our fire department has maintained a Class 4 rating with 62.47. Maintaining a Class 4 rating is important for the purpose of property insurance and, possibly, the ability to retain property insurance in our remote area.

The District has reviewed the requirements to increase our rating, but it would be too costly due to the necessity of additional personnel, training, and purchasing of a ladder truck.

Who is sending me this survey?

In August 2023, the KMPUD Board President created a Temporary Advisory Committee to engage the community and provide the Board guidance on how to structure KVFD in the future. Based on community input, the committee includes members from across the valley who were vocal on different sides of Measure E, current KVFD firefighters, KMPUD Staff, and Kirkwood Mountain Resort staff.

Rick Ansel KVFD Fire Chief, KMPUD Assistant General Manager
Dan Deemer Kirkwood Mountain Resort Employee
Peter Dornbrook KMPUD Director
Anne-Flore Perroud Dwyer KVFD Volunteer, KMPUD Planning Committee Member
Sandy Goldberg KMPUD Communications Committee Member
Joel Gomez KVFD Captain, Kirkwood Mountain Resort Employee
Jack Longinotti KMPUD Finance Committee Member
Doug Mitarotonda KMPUD Director, Chair of the Fire & EMS TAC
Bertrand Perroud Former KMPUD Director
Eric Richert KMPUD Planning Committee Member, Former KMPUD Board President
John Reiter Kirkwood Village Development, Kirkwood Property Services


Does KVFD have any full-time staff?

No. All Firefighters, including the Fire Chief, are volunteers. Almost 20 years ago, the District created a two-person stipend on-call calendar system 24/7 in the attempt to ensure at least two volunteers respond to every call. The stipend, along with offering volunteers a $20 stipend to go on calls and a $10 stipend to attend weekly training, worked for a few years but ultimately was not enough to encourage volunteers to sign up, train, or retain volunteers. The stipend is now up to $200 dollars a day per firefighter, and we still have problems filling the on-call schedule completely.

What happens if an on-call shift is left unfilled?

When a shift is left unfilled, and it has on several occasions in the past several years, the emergency call gets routed to Alpine or Camino Dispatch for an emergency response, which can take 40-50 minutes for firefighters / EMS to arrive if the road is open and clear of snow.

How many calls does the KVFD get in a year?

The KVFD averages over 100 calls per year. These calls occur about equally between winter season and summer season, with fewer calls in specific shoulder months.

Where, and what type, are the calls KVFD receives?

Almost 70% of calls occur In-Valley and the majority of the calls are alarms or emergency medical in nature.

What is the typical KVFD response time to emergency calls?

When the KVFD is staffed with volunteers, the median time to respond from time of dispatch has historically been an average of 9 minutes. However, when no volunteers are available and mutual aid must arrive, the emergency call gets routed to Alpine or Camino Dispatch for an emergency response, which can take 40-50 minutes for firefighters / EMS to arrive if the road is open and clear of snow.


What are the most common methods of funding a fire department?

Property taxes, benefit assessment, and special tax. The benefit assessment is sometimes referred to as a 218 process. The special tax, which was Measured E, is enabled by the formation of a Community Facilities District (CFD), which becomes the taxing vehicle. Some departments are able to charge a fee for services such as ambulance service and for sending firefighters and equipment when they are available to help CalFire battle wildfires in other parts of the state.

A Community Service District (CSD) is an organizational possibility that would create a district separate from KMPUD to provide fire protection and emergency medical services. A CSD would still need to conduct a 218 process (or special tax) to raise new funds, but creation of a CSD would initiate new discussions with the counties (and the Alpine County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO)) regarding property taxes returned to Kirkwood. Whether these discussions would result in more of our property taxes returned to Kirkwood is unknown,  and the last three attempts to secure more property taxes have failed, but at least there would be an opportunity for discussion and possibly negotiations.

What funds KVFD today?

An annual fee paid by each property owner. This is a benefit assessment fee that was established in 1988 and (memorialized) via the 218 process in 1995. The fee is $0.04 per square foot of combustible floor area. This fee generates about $65,000 per year for KVFD. The remainder of the KVFD annual budget of about $300,000 is usually covered by property taxes. At times, the KVFD 501(3)(c) grants funds to help balance the KVFD budget (though the 501(c)(3) funds are for equipment purchases).

How much more of an assessment would be needed?

An engineer’s report that is a 218 requirement would likely not have a uniform fee per square foot of building, instead would vary the fee based on risk/benefit analysis. However, if a uniform fee could be used, then, for example, $500,000 in assessment revenue would require a per square foot fee of about $0.30, versus the current $0.04.

Can we allocate more of the property taxes returned to us by the counties to KVFD?

Yes, this is a decision that the KMPUD Board could make by allocating property taxes from the utilities to KVFD, which would necessitate utility rate increases. Here are the current tax allocations last year:

Fire: $258,721.97
Parks: $21,970.49
Water: $37,623.91
Waste Water: $133,393.87
Employee Housing: $42,580.37
Electric:  $450,000.00 (note, $450,000.00 was used last year due to various reasons, however, approximately $250,000 is what is usually budgeted)
Total =  $944,290.61


We receive roughly 20% of the property taxes paid to Alpine, Amador, and El Dorado counties. In addition, we receive 10% of transient occupancy taxes paid to Alpine County. The first use of these funds is to meet our loan covenants for the out valley electric line and, in the near future, loan covenants for the renovation of our wastewater treatment plant. Increasing electric and wastewater rates would enable more property taxes to be allocated to the fire department.

Can we have more of our property taxes that we pay to the counties returned to help fund the fire department?

This is a political rather than a legal issue. The percentages of property taxes currently returned to Kirkwood by each county we are in (Alpine, Amador and El Dorado) were established in 1985 as part of the formation of KMPUD. Modifying the percentage for each county would require approval by Alpine County’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) and each county’s Board of Supervisors. Neither is under obligation to increase our funding or to even consider changing the funding formulas. A political process clearly demonstrating benefit to the counties of increasing the percentages would be necessary. The community and  KMPUD have attempted to accomplish this several times (Fair Share effort in the early 2000s, participation on an Alpine County Grand Jury in 2008, and in-depth discussions with Eastern Alpine Fire from 2017-2019), but so far unsuccessfully. Additional effort is possible if clear benefit to the counties can be articulated.

A possibility that has come up in the past is incorporation as a city, in order to capture more of our property tax dollars. Making this effort is possible but would  be a difficult and costly process involving negotiations with three Local Agency Formation Commissions and three County Boards of Supervisors with no guarantee of success.

Do the counties also return some of the Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOTs) collected when homes are rented out for short term stays?

Alpine County returns 10% of TOT collected, resulting in about $40,000 annually returned to Kirkwood, which is included with the property taxes returned to us. Amador County does not return any TOT’s. There are no short term rentals for Kirkwood in El Dorado County.

What can we do to have Amador County return some of the TOT it collects?

We can make a request to Amador County to return a percentage of TOT funds.

Can we collect fees from those who KVFD assists on Highway 88?

Yes, KVFD does have an agreement with a collection company. However, it is difficult to collect all the necessary information needed during accidents to follow up with a collection to cover costs. Also, CHP does not share vehicle or driver information with KVFD after accidents, information that is necessary to bill someone.

In that case, can KVFD refuse to provide assistance on Highway 88?

KVFD is the first responder and has mutual aid agreements with Eastern Alpine County Fire and Amador Fire Protection Agency to respond to emergency calls on Highway 88 from Carson Pass to Tragedy Springs. When a fire occurs in Kirkwood, our volunteers are equipped to make an initial attack or contain the fire to keep it from spreading, but rely on response from our mutual aid partners to, for example, enter a burning building. Overall, the mutual aid arrangements are beneficial to Kirkwood, even if fees from those on Highway 88 cannot be collected.

Can we collect fees from our neighbors such as Lake Kirkwood, Silver Lake, and Caples Lake, for whom we are first responders?

There is currently no legal arrangement to do this. These areas are outside of the District’s legal service area boundaries. There would be no basis to extend a special tax or assessment to these areas. The only possible way to include these areas would be some sort of mutual aid agreement in which the jurisdictions responsible for these areas agree to contribute funding to KMPUD’s emergency services fund, if legally permitted to do so.

What about Kirkwood Mountain Resort? What is KMR’s share of KVFD’s revenue?

Currently, based on the $0.04/SF assessment fee, Kirkwood Mountain Resort provides about 8% of the assessments collected (about $5,000). KMR also makes in-kind contributions to the KVFD 501(c)(3) at the Summer Festival, which helps purchase capital equipment.

Can Kirkwood Mountain Resort do more?

There has been some discussion with Kirkwood Mountain Resort and more discussion is needed. One possibility mentioned is to have a couple of ski patrollers with EMT certification to be on call, able to leave their mountain duties if an EMS call comes in. This would help relieve some of the possible need to hire such personnel. More discussion about this possibility is needed. Another part of the discussion we need to continue is whether a set (mandatory) or a voluntary fee to support KVFD can be added to ski passes.

How about a sales tax on ski lift tickets?

KMPUD as a California Special District has no authority to collect sales taxes. In addition, ticket sales are not normally subject to a sales tax because they are not considered a tangible item that can be taxed. Something that would have the same result as a “sales tax” should be discussed with Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

How about a general sales tax to fund the fire department?

KMPUD does not have the authority to impose or collect a sales tax. Such a tax would need to be implemented through each county, and may involve voting by all county voters, not just voters in Kirkwood (this would need to be verified).

Is there any financial relationship between the Barton Clinic that Kirkwood Mountain Resort contracts with and KVFD?


Does KVFD benefit at all from the community fee collected by KCA?

No, that is a fee established by the KCA Board and collected to fund maintenance of Kirkwood Meadows Drive and other KCA activities. It is independent of KMPUD and KVFD.

How does KVFD use the revenues and property taxes it collects today?

These go to pay for costs associated with running the department, facility costs, equipment maintenance, replacement and up-keep, volunteer stipends, and training.

The KVFD budget refers to Operating Costs and G&A. What’s included in Operating Costs and G&A (General and Administrative Costs)?

Operating Costs: Operating expenses include insurance, training expenses, vehicle repairs, fuel, equipment repairs, replacing equipment that is not considered Capital Expenses, and EMS supplies when needed.

G&A: The District has a single administration organization to oversee the entire operation of the District. The District’s General Manager, administration staff, and the Board of Directors are primarily budgeted in the General and Administration (G&A) Department. Their labor costs, payroll taxes and fringe benefits are part of the G&A Department. Other common expenses incurred by the District which benefit the District as a whole are also budgeted in G&A. 100% of these monthly expenses are then allocated to other departments. The allocations out of G&A to departments such as Fire are based on management’s assessment of staff time and effort.

What efforts have been / could be made to work with county, state, and federal government agencies to provide funding / services?

In 2018 the KMPUD Board of Directors created a Temporary Advisory Fire Services Funding Committee to research and discuss finding additional revenue for KVFD from Alpine and Amador Counties. This effort, along with discussions with CalFire and USFS, has been unsuccessful. The KMPUD will continue to work with county, state, and federal agencies (USFS) to look for ways to provide additional funding for the fire department and its operations.

Have we talked to CalFire or the U.S. Forest Service about operating out of Kirkwood to service our community? 

The KMPUD has met and will continue to work with county, state, and federal agencies to look for ways to provide additional funding for the fire department and its operations. We last spoke to these agencies in 2023 and found that KMPUD would have to enter into contract with them and that the price would exceed that of contracts with the nearby counties or that of hiring firefighters directly.

Why is the KVFD needed to create a helicopter landing zone inside the valley, doesn’t Kirkwood Mountain Resort have paid security to do this? And if the KVFD does assist, is it compensated for its time?

KVFD is dispatched to medical helicopter landings to provide services in the event of a landing and takeoff accident, and to help with patient loading. KVFD can bill for these services if patient information can be obtained.

Is it possible to hire staff that work only during peak winter and summer periods? 

Possibly, if funding and staff is available, however, no one knows when emergency services will be needed.

How and when do you recruit volunteers for the fire department? 

The KVFD actively recruits volunteers using multiple methods, including social media, working with Kirkwood Mountain Resort, attending job fairs, posing flyers, networking with other fire departments, recruiting from the Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Academy, and by KVFD volunteers asking friends and coworkers to join.

It seems like we used to have more volunteers than we do today? Why? What has changed? If affordable housing is an issue, what is the KMPUD doing to provide housing?

Volunteer member levels have fluctuated over the past several years due to numerous reasons, including affordable housing, the lack of year-round residents interested in volunteering in Kirkwood, and firefighter / emergency medical training requirements, The KMPUD currently has housing available for its District Staff and also has fire quarters for volunteer members who are on call.

When was the KVFD created? Has it always been a fully volunteer department? 

The KVFD was established in 1985 and has always been a volunteer fire department.

What level of service does the on-site medical clinic provide, who funds it, and is it open to the community?

Through a contract with Kirkwood Mountain Resort, the Barton clinic is staffed 7 days a week, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, during the operational winter ski season, and is open to the entire community to use, not just guests of the ski area. When open, the Clinic provides a doctor, as a nurse, and support staff.

However, the clinic is not a receiving facility for the KVFD, by State law.

If political avenues have not worked to increase the amount of property tax returned to Kirkwood, are there any judicial avenues that could be pursued? 

There are no known judicial avenues that could be pursued.

Why did KMPUD not fight the lawsuit over the home that blew up due to a propane leak?

The lawsuit was settled by KMPUD’s insurance company due to the likelihood of an unfavorable ruling. KMPUD had no say in whether to settle or fight the lawsuit as it was an insurance claim.