Funding Issues Force Closure of Ceres Fire Station

CERES  -- The City of Ceres is seeing a change to their fire services after a $1.2 million grant expired Saturday and the city decided to not ask for an extension.

Fire Station 3 will not be opening its doors anytime soon.

"We are lucky that station is a little bit slower station. It’s on the outskirts of town," said President of Ceres Professional Firefighters Local 3636 Mike Miller. "Only runs about one to two calls a day, on average. So the response time is going to be a little bit longer in that area."

The closure, along with the layoffs of six temporary firefighters on Saturday, was brought on by the decision to not ask for an extension of the grant the department received two years ago from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"I feel we are still going to be able to service that area with the same high quality service we’ve been giving them. We are just going to have to change the way we do things a little bit," Miller said.

Though the city still had $320,000 that they had not used, they decided to give back the money instead of asking to have until the end of June to use it.

"It definitely feels like we are going backwards," Miller said. "It’s very disheartening as the president of our organization to see our guys get laid off. We put a lot of effort into training these guys and then to see them walk off the job, it’s an impact to me personally and an impact to our organization as well."

Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra sent FOX40 the following statement regarding the decision to give back the remainder of the grant:

"It is an unfortunate situation and the city would have loved to keep the staffing levels as they were but our general fund could not continue to support the additional level of funding needed to support the safer grant staffing. While I hate to lose the staff our first priority is to ensuring the city is kept solvent."

The city pointed to an additional $30,000 needed for costs, like overtime, as to why it was best to move on from asking for an extension.

As for Miller, he says the department’s three remaining stations will continue to share resources with Modesto, Turlock and Stanislaus fire, a practice that was evident Saturday morning when Ceres Fire helped respond to an attic fire in Turlock.

"It’s going to be a challenge but as firefighters we tend to step up to that challenge and we make it work. We’ve always made it work and we will continue to make it work," Miller said.

That resource sharing partnership will become more important as the department and city wait for more funds to help replenish the fire services.

Captain Miller made it very clear, there is no ill will toward the city. They understand this was a budget issue that needed to be worked out but they said they will continue to lean on the resource sharing they have with other cities and the county to ensure they get to fires as fast as possible.