Wednesday Jul 18 2012
Local fire district lays-off firefighters
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
More cuts could be coming
Four firefighters were laid off in the Higgins Fire Protection District Wednesday and other Auburn-area departments say cutbacks may be on the horizon for them. The cuts come in the wake of the failure of three June ballot measures, which would have added additional taxes for fire districts. The Placer Hills Fire Protection District, North Auburn-Ophir Fire and the Higgins Fire Protection District each warned residents that additional revenue was needed to make up for major budget shortfalls caused by lower property tax revenues. Without the tax-infusion, each district is looking at ways to balance its budget, from layoffs to station closures. Jerry Good, battalion chief of the Higgins Fire District, which covers 90 square miles from Lake of the Pines to Grass Valley, said two firefighters and two engineers were displaced from their jobs at 8 a.m. ?We are going from six people on duty a day to four to cover 90 square miles,? Good said. ?It is probably one of the worst months of my life. We only missed it (the measure passing) by 5 percent.? Going forward, Good said he is concerned response times will go up, but plans on monitoring them over the coming weeks. The ability of local agencies to provide fast response during mutual aid calls is also a concern. While the district has a great core of volunteers, they are limited by other work and family commitments, he added. The shortfall in the district?s budget was about $466,000, according to Good. Ian Gow, Placer Hills Fire Protection District Chief, said the board is still studying options for balancing the budget. He said there was a strong likelihood that by October Placer Hills would experience similar cuts. During large incidents, such as the Robbers Fire, Gow said many local resources get redirected, causing staff reductions in smaller districts to have a ripple effect. ?Literally every fire department in Placer County had fire engines on that fire and obviously Cal Fire had a huge commitment to it and they did a wonderful job. It should not go unnoticed that every Placer County Agency had one or more apparatuses there,? Gow said. ?That will be less fire engines available everywhere in the county.? Chris John, firefighter at the Atwood Fire Station in North Auburn-Ophir Fire, said he and engineer Sean Ryan were in the process of applying for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Auburn City was recently awarded a grant through the program, which will allow them to hire five firefighters for the next two years. John said he hopes the grant will be approved and that cutbacks will not have to be made in North Auburn-Ophir. He said he has not heard of the possibility of bringing the measure back before voters next year. ?What?s going to happen if that doesn?t go is that we may have to close down our other station, station 182,? John said. ?The firefighters there will be displaced or laid off.? Reach Sara Seyydin at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.