By Macy Jenkins

CERES (CBS13) – The city of Ceres is facing a shortage of firefighters. This comes after the department had to make layoffs earlier this year. Now residents are worried it could mean leaving some areas unprotected.

“I’ve lived in Ceres my whole life,” said Greg Studdar. “We need to have these guys here.”

Mike Miller, president of Ceres Professional Firefighters Local 3636 Union, says 22 firefighters are working overtime to cover 27 positions.

“Well, we definitely have a shortage of firefighters,” he said. “Most of us are working on our days off, out of rank. Captains are working as firefighters and engineers, engineers are working as captains. It’s starting to really wear on a lot of guys.”

Back in March, the fire department had to lay off six firefighters after funding from a two-year grant ran out. That’s when one of four city fire stations shut down. Miller says Fire Station 16 could be next if city leaders don’t make enough room in the city budget.

“If that station’s closed, your response is going to come from a greater distance,” he told CBS13.

Miller says it’s stretch just to meet minimum response times. The department has two positions frozen and two more firefighters leaving the department to work in a nearby city.

“I am very worried right now that we’re not a very high priority,” Miller said.

Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra told CBS 13 it’s a bit early to worry about the budget just yet because he hasn’t seen the numbers.

“It’s not my intention to dismantle or close fire stations or get rid of firefighters,” Vierra said.

Still, he says he has to keep the city solvent without much wiggle room.

“As I tell my children, you can’t spend $1.50 when you only have a dollar,” Vierra said. “And so we have to make difficult decisions.”

But Studdar had a message for city leaders: you shouldn’t put firefighters on the back burner.

“Come on guys, let’s go ahead and spend the money and let’s get these people here,” he said.

A budget workshop is planned for May 29 where the city will make plans for the next fiscal year.

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