A recent fundraiser for child burn victims complete with a parade of fire trucks through downtown Petaluma, has prompted some to ask why public resources are being used to support a private foundation, especially at a time when the city’s finances are strained.
On May 11th, fire departments from around the North Bay, including Petaluma’s, held a burn relay, an annual event benefitting The Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, which raises money to send child burn victims to camps in the Sierras.
Although the relay started in Healdsburg, the Petaluma Fire Department engine met up with the group at Old Redwood Highway and accompanied the fire trucks to the D Street station, where it presented the group with a donation of $1,000, according to Captain Phil Sutsos, the Petaluma representative to the foundation.
The trucks then continued down to Novato—sans Petaluma Fire trucks-- before ending the day in Sausalito. They raised a total of $34,295 for the organization.
Sounds innocent enough, but critics say the use of “on the clock” fire fighters, gas and engines for a private fundraiser is inappropriate.
“At a time when teachers are being laid off, state parks are being closed, how can the state of California justify using public vehicles for a private fundraiser?” said Janice Cader-Thompson, a Petaluma resident and former city councilwoman. “Using city time, uniforms and other resources is not acceptable.”
Captain Sutsos said that the Petaluma firefighters who participated were indeed on duty, but they never left their jurisdiction and actually had to peel off to respond to a medical call during the event. He said the Petaluma portion of the fundraiser lasted no more than half an hour.
“This is for children, to help them forget their injuries and feel normal,” Captain Sutsos said. “If people don’t know the whole story, they tend to jump to conclusions.”