The decision of four boardmembers in the San Miguel Fire District made several East County residents so angry, they stormed out of the district's meeting Wednesday night.
The San Miguel Fire District boardmembers voted 4-3 in favor of beginning negotiations with CalFire, a move that residents say will throw off the organization and traditions of their district's firefighting efforts.
"I know that you can save this fire department and not switch over to California, who has not been able to prove it can run much of anything in the last few years," said resident Betsi Walker at the meeting.
The district faces a more than two million dollar structural deficit. Outsourcing services to CalFire would save the district millions, said the district's fire chief, A.F. Ghio.
"Cal Fire is a professional organization," Ghio said. "They are very well trained. They manage these types of contracts very well. It's a good option."
The district has made several cuts over the last three years including cutting 2.5 administrative positions, cutting $800,000 in non-personnel expenses and eliminating Engine 15 at 2850 Via Orange Way.
Last October, the board approved a plan to switch out a fire engine company for a medic rescue unit, as 70 percent of the emergency calls the district gets are medical aid calls, they said.
That decision was also highly criticized. Many residents and fire staff said the switch would increase response times.