Community Infrastructure Local News 

SLV Fire Officials Respond to RTC: Oppose Forced Abandonment of the Felton Branch Line

January 26, 2022

Dear Supervisor McPherson and members of the SCCRTC:

We write you today to urge you not to proceed with any efforts to abandon freight service on the Felton Branch Rail Line or the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line. These rail lines ensure there is a rail connection for Santa Cruz County and the rest of California, which may be critical in providing an essential route to the San Lorenzo Valley and other areas during future fire emergencies related to climate change, severe drought and catastrophic wildfires.

New technologies and innovative solutions to climate-driven emergencies are in development in California and beyond. For example, fire trains are beginning to see use to help fight major wildfires. This was the case in Northern California during the 2021 Dixie Fire. Fire trains use water and retardant, hauled by rail in tanker cars. The trains also include firefighting professionals who battle wildfires from the train, helping to protect watersheds and critical infrastructure.

Freight use abandonment of either rail line will lead to railbanking, which would result in tearing out the tracks, thus eliminating a potentially critical tool in the years ahead as we learn to adapt to the new realities of climate change. 

As you may be aware, there are areas of the Santa Cruz Mountains that are only accessed via the rail line, such as within Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and the Pogonip open space area. 

Coupled with new technologies, such as fire trains that are under study in California, is major new funding for wildfire prevention and protection that is being developed by both the state and federal governments. It is important for Santa Cruz County to maximize options for future resources and to not get left behind in funding and policy decisions that could potentially benefit our region.

We urge you to maintain the Felton Branch Rail Line and the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line as critical infrastructure for our community.


Robert Gray, Fire Chief, Felton Fire District
Dan Walters, Fire Chief, Zayante Fire District
Stacie Brownlee, Fire Chief, Ben Lomond Fire District
Mark Bingham, Fire Chief, Boulder Creek Fire District
Jim Anderson, Vice Chair, Felton Fire District
Bob Locatelli, Fire Director, Boulder Creek Fire District
Sam Robustelli, Fire Director, Boulder Creek Fire District

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8 Thoughts to “SLV Fire Officials Respond to RTC: Oppose Forced Abandonment of the Felton Branch Line”

  1. Peter Stanger

    The Pogonip area is accessible from Highway 9 and UCSC and fire roads.
    Henry Cowell is also accessible from Highway 9 and Graham Hill Road
    The Felton to Santa Cruz line has never used Fire-Trains in the past, and up to now, has never contemplated using them. But, now that the San Lorenzo Valley fire chiefs have cited the need, are they asking their respective Fire District Commissioners to purchase such equipment?
    This letter from the fire chiefs is all smoke.
    Peter Stanger, former volunteer firefighter

    1. Dale Phelps

      incredibly tone deaf stance

  2. Carlene Hazan

    Keep Roaring Camp Open
    Or lose my support

  3. Archibald

    Kindly keep them rolling


    What if.. . .we absolutely need the fire train in the future. What if . . . It’s your home burning. Please keep the trains rolling. It’s very tiring that those of us who live in the mts. Are viewed as second class citizens here and our needs are not taken seriously. KEEP THE TRAINS RLING.

  5. Barbara Robinson

    These lines could save lives in the future… considering all the climate change horrors that have been occurring. KEEP THE TRAINS ROLLING PLEASE.

  6. Ct

    Keep the train lines open. The helped with the CZU fire. Quit destroying z d preserve our history

  7. Barbara Burchett

    Preserving our history should not even be questioned.

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