USA — San Luis Obispo County Cal Fire officials are planning another round of layoffs after learning the state is slashing an additional $15.85 million from the wildland fire budget.
We are going to make the best choices when we make these cuts so we can preserve our initial attack abilities, but it is going to be a cut in firefighters, said Robert Lewin, Cal Fire San Luis Obispo County unit fire chief. The cuts will occur as we move into fall season.
Last fall, cuts of $54 million forced Cal Fire to lower engine crews from four to three, layoff 730 seasonal firefighters and park 10 fire trucks.
On Monday, Cal Fire officials will meet to discuss how to slash the additional $15.85 million out of a 2011-2012 fire protection budget of $524.8 million.
Cal Fire defends 1.4 million acres and approximately 25,000 homes in rural San Luis Obispo County. In addition, Pismo Beach, Avila Beach and Los Osos contract with Cal Fire for emergency services.
Cal Fire employs approximately 600 people in San Luis Obispo County.
Coincidentally, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law on July 7 that requires people with homes in rural areas serviced by Cal Fire to pay an annual fee of $150 per dwelling. The fee is slated to raise $50 million this fiscal year and up to $200 million in subsequent years.
However, none of the money can be used to pay fire fighters because the law requires all money collected from the fee to go solely toward fire prevention.
We have to figure how the cuts will impact on fire protection, Lewin said.