Northern California has had more than its fair share of fires in the last few years. Back in the day, the Cheney Lumber Company operated several mills in this heavily forested area. In 2018, three wildfire disasters burned within the Shasta National Forest. The small town of Lakehead was an island of unburned wildfire fuel in this region.
Lakehead Volunteer Fire Company 54 serves an area of 260 square miles and houses more than 2,000 residents. Due to this vulnerability, they set out to raise money to remodel their modest, community-owned station house. A key factor to the planned improvements is the addition of sleeping quarters which will make Company 54 a candidate for the Shasta County Fire Department’s Reserve Firefighter Program. This eligibility will open the door to staff the station with paid firefighters from Shasta County with 24-hour coverage.
An average of 300+ calls a year are received by Company 54. Response time from out-of-the area first responders is 45 – 60 minutes or more. This includes responding to structure or brush fires, as well as accidents and medical emergencies in the community, along the Interstate 5 corridor, the railroads tracks, and on Shasta Lake. Company 54 owns a fire-rescue boat but due to a lack of trained volunteer firefighters they have been unable to respond to on-the-lake emergencies since 2016. This is a special need that places the community and recreational visitors on the lake at high risk.
At this writing Station, 54 has only one part-time volunteer firefighter. It is not easy to recruit them. The training requirements are just as stringent for volunteers as those of paid personnel. In the near past, the station had to close for a couple of years due to a lack of volunteers. With its population aging, 2,000 residents and over a million annual visitors, experienced, trained firefighters are crucial.
The Cheney Foundation was pleased to support this project. Providing 24/7 coverage with paid firefighters and the ability to decrease response times to emergencies only makes good sense. We are confident that the community and team will soon realize their dreams and complete all the necessary improvements to the Station. We just hope that they remain an island untouched by fire for a long time to come.