CERES -- As cities continue to work to finalize their budgets for the upcoming year, the City of Ceres has important decisions to make regarding their fire department.
A representative with the Ceres Fire Department says since that station closed about two months ago, stations like Number 1 in downtown Ceres have had to pick up a lot of that slack and it has put a lot of strain on the department.
"We’re in dire straits right now," said Mike Miller, president of Ceres Professional Firefighters Local 3636, "We definitely need those positions filled."
With budget discussions looming at the end of the month, Miller said the Ceres Fire Department is filling holes that need to be filled.
"My guys have been giving up a lot of time on their days off to work. A lot of guys have been mandated to work without a choice because those shifts have to be filled," Miller told FOX40. "I want to be very upfront that the Ceres firefighters are not interested in raises if it means reducing our staffing."
Miller says the layoff of six temporary firefighters and the closure of Station 3 in March has put a strain on the department, which is already in need of filling four positions and finding a fire chief and fire marshall while leaning on other agencies for help.
Mayor Chris Vierra feels their pain and knows the budget talks could bring even more difficult decisions.
"We are not wanting to dismantle anything. We are not wanting to get rid of people. No, nothing could be further from the truth," Vierra said.
Vierra says Ceres has enjoyed a strong revenue stream from the growth of the cannabis industry in the area. But with around 90 percent of the general fund going to salary and benefits for police, fire and parks and recreation, discussions on how to keep the city solvent may result in tough decisions.
"If it turns out we need less fire stations, if we need less firefighters, it’s not because we want to," Vierra said. "It’s not because we think that’s what will be best for the city. It’s just part of the whole equation we have to look at."
As uncertainty lingers for how the Ceres Fire Department will look as soon as next year, the goal is to ensure public safety remains the top priority for the city -- at a price it can afford.
A budget workshop is set for May 29.