After seeing the what he believes to the the mismanagement of the El Dorado County Fire Protection Board, Mark Brunton, a chief officer for Cal Fire, decided to run for the director position for Division 1.
Brunton, who has been in the fire industry for 25 years and a resident of the county, currently living in Cool, since 1990, called the board, besides member Mike Dennis, an “abject failure. They’re asleep behind the wheel, they have not fixed the problems that exist, and that could lead to a reduction of service.”
The firefighter holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration, has worked with other boards, handling budgets and “providing leadership, oversight in programs and managing large-scale emergency incidents.” Brunton also attended the National Fire Academy Executive Officer Program.
He decided to run for the position after the local firefighter’s union sought him out “to help mitigate the problems with the current crisis,” he said. Wanting to give back to his community, Brunton saw that a “critical issue is with the health of the fire district.”
Part of that is the “$200,000 or $300,000 deficit, and it’s growing daily,” Brunton said. “There needs to be a restructure, the management is top-heavy. It would free money for the budget with no loss of service.”
Brunton faces incumbent Dennis Edwards, who works with a major rescue company training firefighters to cut people out of cars at the sight of accidents.
Edwards, a resident of the county for “17 or 18 years” worked as a volunteer firefighter in the 1970s and 1980s in Horn Lake, Miss. When his station became a paid station, he became the chief. Later, he became the director of public safety for the city, running both police and fire departments, before moving to California. In the past few years, he said, he has been getting back into the fire industry.
“I have a history in the fire service, working in the community,” he said. He wants to protect both the citizens of the community and the firefighters, he said, because “someone has to protect the firefighters.” He aims to provide them with the “best equipment, the best training.”
If re-elected, he said, he wanted to take a look at the fire engines and the stations. “Every engine has over 100,000 miles on it. They’re all safe, fit for service and tested on a regular basis to make sure they can be on the first line” of arriving vehicles. “All the stations but one are old.” Many need to be upgraded or replaced, he said. There are also the matters of “the cost of fuel, tires, payroll, benefits on the rise. Much like what mayors and governors are facing.”
Edwards said that his experience in the industry means he knows “the street level and the management level,” and he knows the firefighting business. Withe “tax dollars few and far between” from property taxes, he wanted to figure out the “how best to cover the dwindling funds with increased cost of business — it’s a very fine and difficult line. As a firefighter, I know what is needed on the line. As a chief, I know what is needed for the men. As a businessman, I know what is best for the community.”