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Local Fire Stations Face Threat Of Budgetary Closures

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors are facing tough decisions on how deep to cut public safety programs in these tough times.

Firefighters in unincorporated communities including Thousand Palms, Bermuda Dunes, Thermal, and others face cuts.

They’re thinking of reducing the hazardous materials team fromeight firefighters to five at the North Bermuda Dunes fire station while realizing the number of emergency calls isn’t likely to go down.

But some Desert cities are weathering the tough times and, in one case, even adding a fire station.

There are happy times in Indio and sad faces in Riverside. This is the mix of emotions our local firefighters face.

“I’ve been a firefighter for 32 years,” says fire chief Ignacio Otero said. “This is definitely the worst time that we’ve seen in the fire department.”

The County Supervisor’s slide show shown at a recent meeting says it all. Eighty-nine firefighter jobs are on the line. But, at the same time, the grand opening of a fire station near the Terra Lago development in North Indio brings out celebrations.

These firefighters are lucky they work in Indio, because this city is bragging that they can keep paying for firefighters, unlike county politicians in Riverside.

“We’ve been fortunate, obviously,” said Indio City Manager Glenn Southard. “It takes good planning and a good vision by the city council and a staff that’s working through that vision.”

People living in the cities of Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, and Coachella are safe from budget cuts. Because their cities pay CalFire separately, they do not face large cuts at this time. Desert Hot Springs is also a CalFire contract city; they are asking their residents to approve Measure A to help pay for fire services. Palm Springs and Cathedral City have their own independent fire departments.

There’s a fear that paramedics or HazMat specialists may be removed from some fire engines in smaller communities.

“The cuts that could potentially come would affect the county jurisdiction areas, then potentially some of the state areas,” CalFire Chief Ray Paiz explains in Indio.”Therefore, it won’t affect this city and this community whatsoever.”

Indio’s good fortune is Riverside County’s fear. Public safety is what local government is all about. Some can afford it whileothers cannot.

CalFire Chief Hawkins made his plea to county supervisors Tuesday. The decision of who to cut rests in their hands now. The supervisor’s decision is expected in the next few weeks.

KESQ News Team

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