AUBURN (CBS13) — The fire season is expected to be bad as a result of the drought, but one local fire department may need to cut one-third of its staff.
Auburn firefighters were gearing up for their next call on Tuesday, but by September, five of 15 firefighters on staff will be let go because a two-year federal grant will expire.
“Prior to the grant going in place, our response times average over six-and-a-half minutes, and since those firefighters have been employed, our average response times have gone below five minutes,” said John Rogers with the Auburn Firefighters Association.
Back in 2009, the 49er Fire burned more than 60 homes, causing millions of dollars in damage. Firefighters say it’s something that could happen again any day.
City Councilman Bill Kirby says the city was aware the grant was running out.
“There was a lot of forward planning,” he said. “We didn’t anticipate the state making us pay even more money than we’re paying right now. The state regulations and rules are making it very hard for the cities to function.”
We spoke to the City Councilman Kevin Hanley over the phone. He says losing the five positions would mean going back to the same number of firefighters they had before the grant.
To keep those firefighters, the city would have to lay off police officers or public works employees.
“Perhaps thinking about other creative options such as going to the public, even with a tax,” he said, “I hate to say that—to try and see if they want to fund this permanently.”