Debora Villalon (KTVU) - Napa County is opening two new fire stations, expected to make rural residents not only safer, but more insurable.
People living in the fire-prone hills above Lake Berryessa have seen their homeowners insurance premiums triple, and some cancelled outright, because they were deemed too high risk, too far from a fire station.
"The thing about Berryessa Estates, there's only one road in and one road out," Pope Valley Volunteer Fire Chief Mark Amador told KTVU, driving through a vast burn area from the 2014 Butts fire.
"The Butts Canyon fire came over the hills into Berryessa Estates, and we evacuated it, " added Amador, recalling a week-long firefight and two homes lost.
The fire was one of Napa County's worst in recent years. It charred more than 4,000 acres and put the 200 households in Berryessa Estates at risk.
"We all know that whether it's a fire or medical emergency that minutes count," Napa County Assistant Fire Chief Geoff Belyea told KTVU, touring the new single-room fire station located in the Estates neighborhood.
The area's eight volunteer firefighters will now scramble to the fire house, and its full-time engine, when called.
It's a no frills station: prefab steel, with a truck bay and a restroom. But it will greatly reduce response time, compared to the 25 minutes it can take an engine to arrive from the main Pope Valley Fire Station ten miles away.
That drive-time has prompted insurance companies to cancel customers in the hills, jack their rates sky high, which Napa County hopes to reverse.
"Hopefully with the fire station here, the insurance companies will recognize that and it will provide some relief to the residents out here for their homeowners insurance," predicted Chief Belyea.
And those insurance woes aren't unique, with so many large, damaging wildland fires in California in recent years.
The Wragg fire, in 2015, burned 8,000 acres on the southern end of Lake Berryessa, and also threatened homes. Three hundred residents of Berryessa Highlands, on that side of the lake, will also get a satellite fire station by the end of August.
For the volunteers who live in the rural communities, and help protect them, it's a big relief having an engine close at hand,.
And judging by the children lined-up taking pictures of the newly-arrived engine, the community has a lot of anticipation too.
"I think people are really excited," smiled Chief Amador, "because I talk to the public all the time and they say they can't wait for it to get here, and my volunteers can't wait either."
Napa County spent more than $1 million on the two new stations, opening both while fire season is still underway.
An open-house and free BBQ will be Saturday morning at 10 am at the Station 220 located at 2386 Stagecoach Canyon Road in Pope Valley.