Chico Fire Chief lays out idea to prevent closing a fire station

CHICO, Calif. - Chico Fire is one of many departments facing devastating cuts in the new budget adopted by the city council.

On Wednesday, outgoing Chief Jim Beery spoke to KRCR News Channel 7 at length about what those cuts could mean and shared a new idea he has that could help minimize the impact.

"That large of a target means we have to get rid of people or close a station; that's what it comes down to," said Beery.

This is the hurdle Beery will have to deal with for the final month of his career – figuring how to work with $1.3 million less than what he had last year.

"I have no choice, the only way to accomplish $1.3 million is to close a fire station," said Beery.

Ultimately, that decision is in the hands of the city council. Early rumblings have been that Station 3 at the Chico Airport would be the one to close. However, if that happened, it would threaten commercial air service to the city or at the very least, force the department to train all of its other firefighters in aircraft incident response.

"We would have to train every officer and every acting officer within the department. So we would have to increase our training budget for that one segment from $20,000 to $40,000," said Operations Chief Shane Lauderdale.

It roughly cost about $1.6 million to run Station 3 so if the council decides to close this station, it would solve the fire department budget problems.

Another idea that is floating around is if each airline passenger pays an extra $17 each way flying in and out of the Chico Airport, it would keep the station open.

"You'd figure about 250 people taken those flights in and out a day.  If you put $17 each way on the ticket that would pay for the personal, the equipment, the station and all the training," said Beery.

The logistics of that plan are not clear and Beery will retire at the end of the month, but it is entirely possible that the next few weeks could have a big impact on his legacy.

Keith Carter will take over as interim chief of the Chico Fire Department once Beery leaves.

"We are going in the right direction I think, and we are going to keep the oars in the water and keep going forward," said Carter.

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