Push to Fully Equip Madera County Fire Stations

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) — As the fire danger increases, concern is also growing in Madera County.

More than 700 firefighters from across the state are battling the Fork Fire in the North Fork area.

RELATED: Fork Fire: Crews Reach 20% Containment, Area at 819

While the state’s response is typical for wildfires, many residents near fire lines say they want a fully equipped fire station closer to home for faster response times.

CAL FIRE officials say they have made progress in strengthening the area’s fire departments.

“Historically, we were just one person at our stations, and over the last five years we’ve increased that. Every business in Madera County, if it’s not just a pay station, it’s is a joint paid and volunteer station,” said Chris Trindade, CAL FIRE Deputy Chief Operating Officer.

There are two volunteers assigned to Station 11 in North Fork.

“So they’ll answer from home, pick up the device, and go to that. Complementary, whatever kind of call to North Fork, a CAL FIRE engine will answer,” Trindade said.

In 2017, 56% of voters rejected Measure L, a 1% sales tax increase led by Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler. Most of the money would have gone to the county fire department to improve staff, positions and resources. A percentage would also have gone to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. Opponents said it would cost residents too much.

“This would fully fund all-volunteer fire stations with full-time 24/7 firefighters. At that time, we hadn’t bought a new fire truck in over 10 years, we hadn’t the money to do it,” Rouleur said.

Wheeler said the county improvised by getting already existing sales tax dollars for public safety.

“The council pledged $1 million a year to buy two fire trucks a year, we’ve been doing this for five years.”

Given the growth in tourism and the county itself, the budget kept pace. Wheeler said 70% of discretionary dollars — nearly $68 million — goes to public safety, including fires, sheriff and jail.

“The ideal goal would be for all counties to have paid staff, it’s just expensive,” Trindade said.

Madera County is working toward this goal – there is simply no time frame for this to happen.

Wheeler said he hopes to see Measure L back on the ballot in two years.

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