FORESTHILL (CBS13) — A fire station in Foresthill was forced to shut down due to funding issues. Now, many are concerned about the local emergency services in Placer County.
“We hope there’s no loss of life, we hope there’s no loss of property,” said Foresthill Fire Chief Kirk Kushen.
Station 88 on Gold Street closed on Sunday with a big sign that said: “Closed due to district financial shortages.”
Kushen says the issue is not going away and without additional funding for several struggling fire districts, he’s worried lives will be at great risk and response times will be impacted.
“I was once a volunteer firefighter, and that sign breaks my heart, I’m afraid for the people of Foresthill that we can’t provide services necessary,” said district board member Chris Reams.
The Foresthill Fire District has been losing highly trained firefighters and paramedics at an alarming rate. The district simply cannot pay them adequately.
“We just lost three in the last week, probably one more this week. So we’re gonna have fewer paramedics, we’re gonna go from two ambulances to one, and from two engines to now one,” said Kushen “We hope there’s no loss of life, no loss of property,” he said.
Already stretched thin in a rural, high fire danger community– the district’s fire chief is at a loss.
“It’s really a crisis, we’re in a crisis spot right now, with reduction in staffing, you impact such a wide area, that response times will definitely suffer,” said Kushen.
He predicts response times will be affected at minimum 5 minutes slower leaving residents unsettled.
“We’re all concerned. By losing this one down here I have a feeling it’s really gonna change things,” said resident James Robert Roofener.
So how did this happen?
A lot of factors played a role. According to the fire chief, fire districts receive a very low revenue percentage of property taxes from the county. Residents had a chance to pass a parcel tax last year, but the measure failed.
Kushen says residents already have $130 in additional taxes added to their ad valorem rates annually and voted down an additional $180 proposed new tax last July to help sustain the fire services.
“The county is aware of this, it’s very difficult to reallocate taxes,” said John McEldowney with the Placer County Office of emergency services.
“It’s still being evaluated about the best way to move forward, there are a lot of options on the table,” said McEldowney. He adds that it is a concern whenever any fire station closes and that the county has been conducting studies to figure out a solution.
But time is not on their side.
“We need to resolve it for the safety and security of communities,” said the chief. He adds that this inherent deficiency in fire protection funding is a critical statewide issue that must be rapidly remedied and hopes something is done soon before the problem hits another struggling station.
The fire district has presented a proposal to the Placer County Board of Supervisors with ideas on how to resolve the issue.