Madera County authorities say fire department staffing critically low

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Authorities say there are 15 stations countywide, and at least five of them are staffed with only one person. (KFSN)

The Madera County Fire Department says they're staffing is critical low as one of their volunteer firefighters is now temporarily out of action.

The county fire department says they currently only have about 70 volunteer firefighters countywide. Low staffing is also leading to lower response times in the Madera County areas, especially in some places near Chowchilla.

When there's an emergency, you want help and you want it fast. But in Madera County, quick response times from the county fire department are becoming harder as the department is seeing a shortage in firefighters.

"We're still at levels here in Madera County that were established back in 1928," said Chris Christopherson, who is a former Madera County battalion chief. "That's the number of stations that have one person on them."

The county area in Chowchilla is now uncovered after a volunteer firefighter responding to a call collapsed at a scene and became a victim himself.

"He's the only driver we had down in that area, the only PCF we had to respond was that engine," Christopherson said. "So, now that engine can't respond without a driver, and the people that live in that area will wait for another engine to respond from another area."

Christopherson says there are 15 stations countywide, and at least five of them are staffed with only one person.

The Madera County Sheriff's Office is also feeling the impact, and Sheriff Jay Varney says they've sent deputies from the Valley floor to the mountains to help evacuate during fires. They've also sent deputies to assist firefighters with structure fires.

"One of the reasons we have to do that is because they're coming one person per engine and there's a definite rule on how many firefighters have to be on scene before they can enter," he explained.

The fire department is now left depending on Measure L to pass. It's a sales tax increase of about one percent to the unincorporated areas of the county, and the majority of the money would go to county fire to help with staffing, resources, and new stations - including one in the Chowchilla area.

"At one point, we have to determine what's safe or not and ask is it safe to have one person on a fire truck?" Christopherson said.

The proposed safety sales tax initiative is expected to generate about $170 million within 20 years, and voters in the unincorporated parts of Madera County will vote on the measure on Tuesday.

Related Topics:
newsmadera countyfirefightersChowchilla
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