Modesto Regional Fire Authority has voted to disband on June 30th, but a Modesto Fire station closure slated for the following day, July 1st, has Modesto residents more worried.
“They need to keep as many fire departments open as possible. There’s a lot of dry brush around here,” Modesto resident Gwendolyn Smith said.
Modesto Regional Fire Authority Operating Chief Alan Ernst told FOX40 the regional approach to firefighting was not allowing the fire authority to grow, as originally planned.
“It was meant to find efficiencies within the fire service areas and deliver better service to citizens. For the most part it’s done that. We’ve had a lot of successes. But it required other agencies to basically give up resources and authority. That made others apprehensive to come into the authority,” said Ernst.
The Modesto Regional Fire Authority was formed in 2011 when 3 local fire agencies joined to form a Joint Protection Agreement, or JPA. Currently Salida Fire Protection District, Modesto Fire District and Stanislaus County Fire Warden’s Office work together under the name of Modesto Regional Fire Authority.
One July 1st, the city of Modesto will gain it’s fire department back, as will Salida Fire District. Modesto Fire Department will continue to provide service to Salida for up to 1 year, the time they estimate it will take for Salida to rebuild their own fire district.
“We’re hoping to improve our service level through resource sharing and boundary dropping,” said Ernst.
Once the fire districts are successfully operating individually, they hope to form Automatic Aid Agreements with neighboring areas, using the boundary dropping approach. The model will be similar to the way Sacramento Fire Departments currently operate.
“So we don’t have fire departments passing different fire departments to get to calls. We’re sending those closest to the emergencies,” Ernst said.
That’s what people in Modesto want to hear, in the middle of one of the worst fire seasons the region has seen in some time. What concerns both residents and firefighters more, is the slated closure of Modesto Fire Station 6, on July 1st.
Ernst told FOX40 that, as a part of the city of Modesto’s proposed $345 million budget cuts, they’ve been asked to cut the fire protection budget by $2 million.
“Losing 1 company that takes 2,000 calls a year, that dramatically affects other companies. And unfortunately there’s a trickle down affect,” said Ernst.
“Yeah, because the farther away you are, the longer it takes to get there and put out a fire. Usually they are there for other emergencies. If you take that away, too, you get all kinds of problems,” Modesto resident William Harris said.
Ernst said the only hope for Fire Station 6, on Standiford Road, is applying for a grant. Even then, the station would probably have to close July 1st and re-open months later when the funds are available.
“We’re very concerned. We’re doing the best we can to make plans around that,” said Ernst.