An air traffic control tower in Ramona is threatened by a closure because of cuts from sequestration.
The Federal Aviation Administration proposed to close the Ramona tower because they said it is not considered crucial to national use. The tower was built in 1995 after three people died when two forest service planes collided.
This airfield serves as "ground zero" during fire season and CAL Fire needs the runway for air tankers that fight wildfires.
Fire chiefs and county supervisors gathered at the Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday to voice their concerns should the tower be shut down. They insisted that closing the control tower is an invitation for disaster.
Many argued that the tower is an asset during disaster situations, including fires. San Diego County Supervisors Ron Roberts and Dianne Jacob said the tower helps protect more than 1.7 million acres – including land within U.S. Forests.
“Public safety is at stake,” said Jacob. “If the federal government closes the tower next month, CAL Fire’s aerial capabilities would be put at risk.”
Jacob also says closing the tower would save the federal government about $500,000 a year. She said that’s not nearly enough to outweigh the risk to lives and property.
CAL Fire chiefs said the local base responds to more than 400 calls each year and said the base was a significant aid in the 2003 and 2007 wildfires. Nearly 20 firefighter aircrafts can also be operated out of the Ramona tower.
Supervisors ultimately voted to formally oppose the tower’s closure.
An FAA spokesman had no specific response to those concerns. but the agency says sequestration and budget problems are forcing it to close towers at many of the nation's smaller, low-volume airports.
The administration is accepting public feedback on the closure until Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m. Those who wish to comment can email them at ClosureComments@faa.gov.