Selma's fire department sparks debate

SELMA, Calif.

Selma officials needed to decide if Cal Fire should take over the city-run agency. While, they were expected to vote on it Monday night, they decided to table it until their next meeting, saying there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

Selma city leaders had two proposals in front of them Monday night. The first: have Cal Fire take over its 22-person fire department, and provide paramedic services. The second: keep the agency the same, but contract with American Ambulance for medical personnel.

"I like the idea of the American ambulance in the fact there will always be an ambulance or one will be on the way as quickly as possible."

"I'm concerned about losing the people we have on board right now. They've been trained. They know area."

Opinions among Selma residents are clearly split. As are those from firefighters themselves.

Union president, Anthony Rivas favors the Cal Fire plan, saying it saves the city nearly 190-thousand dollars, prevents layoffs and provides more fire personnel.

Anthony Rivas said, "Our employees would become Cal fire employees, and the proposal has 8 firefighters in the city, which is 2 more than we have right now."

But, the department's acting fire chief, Mike Kain stands behind the American Ambulance proposal. Under it, three full-time positions will be cut. But, he says, the company has the ability to provide better and faster service for Selma residents.

Mike Kain said, "We can keep our fire trucks in town, we can keep our people in town, and we can grow as a fire department and get into the business of firefighting."

After going back and forth for nearly two hours, the council voted to table the issue for another two weeks.

One council member suggested both sides meet and look at the numbers more closely.

Both proposals range between three-point three and three-point four million dollars. That meeting is scheduled for March 19th.

In the meantime, staff will look more closely to see if there are any hidden costs associated with either plan.

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