The San Miguel Fire Board approved a plan to switch out a fire engine company for a medic rescue unit starting next week despite criticism from firefighters and some residents at a meeting Wednesday night.
To save more than $220,000, the board will transition Engine 23 on Dehesa Road from a three-person fire engine company to a two-person medic rescue squad.
The majority of calls in the area, 70 percent,are medical aid calls according to the district.
The board is trying to balance providing the same service with receiving less revenue from property taxes and higher personnel costs said Chief Auggie Ghio.
“We're going to make sure the public is safe. We’ve developed a plan where we’re going to respond in the same great response time,” Ghio said.
However, Kevin Clark Local 1434 Vice President said the response time is unacceptable.
“The rescue unit can be there within 5 to 7 minutes, our normal response times, however that secondary structural firefighting engine… is 8 to 12 minutes away,” Clark said in a recorded statement on the union’s website.
Engine 23 was chosen, because it has the lowest fire risk compared to it population, the lowest response volume within the district, according to the board.
“You guys have taken and taken and taken from the firefighters and paramedics. They don't have anything else to give,” resident Linda Larson told the board at a meeting Wednesday night.
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.
The decision comes at the same time as a labor negotiations impasse between the District and the Firefighters of San Miguel Local.
One firefighter pleaded with the board to reconsider the decision.
“Let's not forget a few years ago that Gail Noble was killed. One guy on a rig. One guy on a rig. You guys gotta, you really gotta rethink this here,” said the man who opposes the change.
Gail Noble died in the line of duty on Nov, 17, 1988 when his rescue truck went out of control while responding to a call.
San Miguel Fire District serves 125,00 residents including 2,300 businesses.