by Rob Malcolm


TURLOCK (CBS13) — Faced with a budget shortfall, the City of Turlock asked the fire department to cut $1.2 million from its budget.

The department will now have to take a fire engine out of service if a firefighter calls out sick or takes a vacation day because engines are operated by a crew of three. This also means an SUV may be the first emergency vehicle at a fire scene.

Paul Arai, president of the firefighters union, sees a problem.

”We can’t do what we can on the fire engine it’s just impossible,” Arai said.

Interim Chief Gary Carlson has made budget cuts where he could and says he’s doing the best he can.

“We froze the training position were deferring buying equipment for one to two years, we cut our overtime budget by 80%, and we defunded two firefighter positions,” Carlson said.

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Staffing has been reduced from 13 to 12 firefighters at all four of Turlocks fire stations.

“Anytime you reduce the number of firefighters, you reduce the level of safety,” Arai said.

That concern was echoed by interim chief Carlson, who says the SUV has limitations.

“If your house across the street catches on fire, there’s no water on the SUV…the crews will arrive make sure the utilities are shut off and everyone’s out of the house.”

He added that the SUV is operated by a crew of two and will have to wait for an engine with the necessary equipment and gear to fight a fire.

The union president has a message for city leaders: “Stop gambling with the safety of citizens.”said Paul Arai.

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