CHICO, Calif. - When the SAFER grant awarded expires this week, the Chico Fire Department will make a difficult move. Without a source to replace those funds, they are forced to lay off five firefighters.
Chico Fire Department Chief Bill Hack said even though these firefighters knew the situation when they were hired, it is still difficult for the department and community to lose them.
Awarded in 2014, the SAFER grant provided the department with more than $5 million over two years. A portion of the grant money funded five positions that will be eliminated when the grant expires Saturday.
Hack said fewer firefighters on staff means citizens may have to wait a longer when they call 911 for help, but his department is prepared to continue maximizing their resources.
"When we accepted that SAFER grant and that level of staffing, we knew that there was a good chance that we were not going to be able to maintain that level of staffing going on in the future," Hack said. "So it was a foregone conclusion that eventually this day was going to come. Any decrease in the number of people on duty will affect our ability to provide a service to the community."
There is the potential for additional layoffs and even fire station closures in Chico. The Chico City Council is currently reviewing results of a study about the fire department's operations, and will hold a public forum at the council meeting on February 7. The council is expected to make some decisions about future closures and layoffs by March.
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Hack said he is planning a news conference detailing the analysis next week.