GARDEN VALLEY — Firefighters with the Garden Valley Protection District helped battle flames as the Country Fire forced evacuations near the El Dorado County community of Cool on Tuesday.
“They were caught in a bad area,” Fire Chief Clyde Savacool said. “Sometimes you get wind shifts, sometimes you get bad terrain.”
Before it was contained, the fire left two crew members injured and a fire truck badly burned.
A day later, Savacool says he was forced to deliver some disturbing news.
A recent assessment, in which Garden Valley homeowners voted no to a parcel tax, determined three firefighters would be laid off — including one of those firefighters injured.
“We went for a ballot measure starting measure starting July and basically that ballot measure was to fund three positions,” Savacool said.
The result of that assessment inevitably means a reduction in half of the firefighters currently employed, along with a reduction in salary and benefits.
“It’s pretty hard. A lot of grew up in the community live in the community so we are caught in a bad spot,” Savacool told FOX40.
Geri Bristol has lived in Garden Valley for more than 40 years. She says it will be hard on nearby property owners who count on the fire department for help.
“I fell and broke some ribs, and there were four or five firemen there, and they were all calling me by my name,” Bristol said. “It’s really nice to have that feeling.”
Another neighbor, who did not want to be identified, says the added tax would be too much on many who are facing increased insurance costs.
“I chose ‘No’ because everyone up here already pays a high tax for the fire department, and now they are wanting $182.60,” they said.
Now, with the assessment failing, Savacool says the district’s last resort would be to try and consolidate with neighboring fire districts.
“Hopefully we will be able to consolidate with the Georgetown, the Mosquito Fire Protection District so together the three of us can form a sustainable budget that will be able to maintain coverage in the area,” Savacool said.
If the consolidation efforts fail, the district will lose three firefighters by June of next year.