Legislative Analyst's Office

Analysis of the 2003-04 Budget Bill

Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (3540)

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDFFP) operates over 500 facilities statewide, including 229 forest fire stations. The Governor's budget proposes $30 million for CDFFP capital outlay. This amount includes $29.6 million for eight major capital outlay projects from lease-payment bonds and $491,000 for one minor capital outlay project (less than $500,000 per project) to be funded from the General Fund. With regard to the major projects, the request includes four continuing projects that have previously been funded for preliminary plans and four new projects for which preliminary plans, working drawings, and construction are now proposed.

Recommended Approval of Four New Projects

We recommend the Legislature approve the $15.5 million funding request for four new projects for which the 2003-04 Governor's Budget proposes full funding of all project phases.

The Governor's budget proposes to use lease-payment bonds to fund preliminary plans, working drawings, and construction for the four capital outlay projects shown in Figure 1.

Historically, our office has recommended the Legislature approve funding of working drawings and construction phases for larger projects only after it has had an opportunity to review preliminary plans for a project. By withholding approval of future project phases until it has reviewed preliminary plans, the Legislature is able to assert an oversight role to ensure that projects remain within legislatively recognized scope and budget.


Figure 1

Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
New Projects Proposed for Full Funding

(In Thousands)


Project Description

Proposed Phasesa



Alma Helitack Base: replace facility




Lassen Lodge Forest Fire Station:
relocate facility




Warner Springs Forest Fire Station: replace facility




Twain Harte Forest Fire Station:
relocate facility








a  P = preliminary plans; W = working drawings; C = construction



"Facility Program Policy Guidelines" Establishing Prototypical Forest Fire Stations Are Not Complete

We withhold recommendation on the approval of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Facility Program Policy Guidelines until all relevant forest fire station buildings are included in the guidelines.

In an effort to more precisely define the scope and costs for forest fire station projects, CDFFP has developed "Facility Program Policy Guidelines" (FPPG) to set forth a prototypical design standard for future forest fire station projects. It is the intent of the CDFFP to use the FPPG to improve project delivery and realize possible cost savings through the standardization of all newly constructed forest fire stations.

The CDFFP operates 229 forest fire stations statewide. Generally, these stations consist of two types: one-engine stations and two-engine stations. As stated earlier, CDFFP forest fire stations tend to be fairly consistent in scope and design and usually are comprised of four basic structures: (1) a barrack/mess hall building; (2) an apparatus building with communication antenna, tower, and base station radio; (3) a generator building; and (4) a flammable materials storage building. The size of these structures is linked to whether the station houses one or two fire engines, which in turn determines the number of personnel assigned to the station. For example, a one-engine station has an eight-bed barracks/mess hall building and a two-bay apparatus building, whereas a two-engine station has a 12-bed barracks/mess hall and a three-bay apparatus building. In addition to the basic four buildings, certain other structures may be a part of a forest fire station, depending on the mission requirements of a specific station. For example, some forest fire stations house a bulldozer that is used in wildland fire suppression and these stations would include a bulldozer and transport shed. Other stations may house personnel other than a fire crew and may need an office for a CDFFP battalion chief, a fire prevention officer, or foresters.

It is commendable that CDFFP has undertaken the development of the FPPG. We believe the guidelines will result in both savings to the state and faster delivery of projects. Our concern is that the document does not fully standardize all structures that may constitute a CDFFP forest fire station. Currently, the FPPG provides a standardized design for only the apparatus building, and the barracks/mess hall building. It does not provide any standardization for the generator building or flammable materials storage building which CDFFP has identified as basic components of a fire station. Also, while it identifies the square footage of a one-bay and two-bay bulldozer storage shed, it does not specify any other design criteria, such as a schematic design for the structure or approved construction materials. In addition, the FPPG provides no standardization for battalion chief office space, fire prevention officer office space, or forester office space. The CDFFP states that no standard was developed for these structures because they are not needed at every forest fire station and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. While we agree that these structures are not a component of every forest fire station, we believe that they should be standardized for those instances when one, or more, of them will be included in a forest fire station project. The CDFFP has agreed to develop a prototypical standard for these structures and amend them into the FPPG.

With a prototypical design standard for all potential structures that may be included in a forest fire station project, we believe that cost savings could be realized because one set of design documents (with site adaptation) can be used for all forest fire station projects, as opposed to having to develop design documents for each new project. In addition, a standardized design should speed delivery of these projects because case- by-case design documents do not need to be developed and construction materials can be preordered.

We withhold recommendation on the approval of the FPPG for future forest fire station projects until CDFFP has developed and included prototypical standards for generator buildings, flammable storage buildings, bulldozer and transport shed, and miscellaneous offices that could be a component of a forest fire station. We understand that CDFFP will develop prototypical standards for these structures prior to the start of budget subcommittee hearings.

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