The North Coast EMS region includes the counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake. This region of sea coast, mountains, and inland valleys begins 100 miles north of San Francisco and extends northward to the Oregon border in a broken land strip 250 miles long and 40 to 70 miles wide. The total land area encompasses approximately 7,000 square miles, or about 5% of the land mass in California. The region’s rugged terrain, extreme weather conditions, and long distances between population centers can often create barriers to the provision of emergency medical services.
The resident population of approximately 213,000 is predominately situated in rural areas. The three and one-half counties contain one incorporated city of approximately 30,000, nine incorporated towns of less than 15,000 each, and numerous other small communities. Recent population figures are indicated below:
Importantly, estimates of the permanent population residing in the area do not accurately reflect the burden places on the emergency medical services (EMS) system. Tourists and vacationers are attracted to the region for outdoor and recreational activities. Spring and summer seasons bring the greatest influx of people for water sports, hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, and trail-riding; hunting and salmon fishing result in heavy outdoor use in the fall. Public safety agencies estimate that some areas periodically experience a 500% or more increase in population size as a result of vacationers, and at least 30% of ambulance responses are for non-residents. The EMS resources in the region are routinely overwhelmed by the seasonal influx of tourists. The occupational profile of the North Coast EMS region reflects its rural nature and economic dependence upon natural resources. Forest products, other natural industries, and tourism/recreation are the leading industries on the north coast. Employees of government, educational institutions, service industries, and private businesses are also major occupational groups. Income statistics indicate that, overall, the area is economically depressed. The 1990 United States Census reports that 9.2% of Humboldt County residents and 15.4% of Lake County residents have incomes below the nationally established poverty level. The average income level on the north coast remains below the state average.
Major ground transportation routes (Highways 101, 299, 20) connect the relatively larger communities of the region with secondary roads, which link the remote areas (Highways 199, 96, 36, 29, 169). Public roads pass through city, county, state, and federal areas of public safety jurisdiction. Recreational travel occurs on over 600 miles of state and National Park and Forest roadways alone. Currently available Caltrans statistics show an Annual Vehicle Miles of Travel of 1,028 for state highways and 574 for non-state highways regionwide. Approximately 95% of these roadways (6,650) are outside of incorporated cities. This correlates with the area’s high incidence of traffic collisions in rural and remote locations. The most prevalent primary collision factor in these locations is excessive speed, which contributes to more severe injury accidents.
California’s North Coast region is a haven for travelers. It contains hundreds of miles of unspoiled coastline, hundreds of thousands of acres of coastal redwoods, ferns, mosses, and wildflowers, several wild rivers, as well as bustling seaports, quaint farming communities and historical areas. Throughout the North Coast, travelers will find comfortable accommodations, fine restaurants and numerous campgrounds.
Besides human visitors, flocks of migrating birds come to the area each year. Humboldt County lies along the Pacific Flyway and hosts over 425 bird species, of which 250 are common. Rivers, parks and forests abound, providing peaceful retreats for birds and birdwatchers.
The weather on the North Coast is as varied as its topography. Sticking close to shore, the temperature stays within a mild range from an average low of 40 degrees in the winter to 66 degrees in the summer. Inland from the stabilizing coastal breezes, the temperature fluctuates along a broader range from an average low of 34 degrees in the winter to an average high of 94 in the summer.
Rainfall also varies depending on location. Though the entire region is prone to winter floods, northern areas close to the coast see nearly twice as much precipitation as do southern coastal areas. Crescent City in Del Norte County receives over 65 inches of rain each year on average, while the city of Eureka in Humboldt County receives an average of 37.5 inches per year. Inland areas receive between hardly a trace of rainfall in the summer to nearly 10 inches in a month in the winter. For all areas, the rainy season typically begins in October and lasts through April.