The Five Cities Fire Authority is temporarily closing its Oceano station.
The Five Cities Fire Authority provides services to Oceano, Arroyo Grande, and Grover Beach.
The Five Cities Professional Firefighters announced Sunday that Station 3 located in Oceano would not be staffed for the next 10 days.
“It’s not a new issue, it’s just exacerbated because one of the last reserve firefighters was just promoted to a full-time position,” said Five Cities Fire Authority Chief Steve Lieberman.
“We’re experiencing some brownouts, meaning we can’t staff the Oceano station consistently, and it all has to do with timing and budgeting,” said Keith Storton, Chair of the Five Cities Fire Authority Board.
The staffing issue is related to a lack of funding, a problem that has been ongoing since 2017.
“It takes three firefighters to keep a station open. They work a shift and there are three shifts, so I’ve got one person and now we’re seeing more station closures,” Chief Lieberman explained.
“The state has recently made new regulations as far as how you pay, retain, and train reserve firefighting people and it just isn’t consistent with our professional model,” Storton added.
Several community members expressed their concerns about how potential response times could affect the safety of their neighborhoods.
“What happens when we have a fire down here? What is the response time?” asked resident Catherine Wathen.
“The difference between four minutes and ten minutes could be the difference between life and death,” said resident Bob Wathen.
In March of 2020, the property tax bond, Measure A, failed to pass. It was intended to provide adequate funding to keep the Oceano station open.
“That will be the financial commitment we need to move forward with the professional firefighter model,” Storton said.
The Five Cities Fire Authority Board says they will meet on Friday to further discuss options for the Oceano station before another bond measure can be put before voters in 2022.
In the meantime, Chief Lieberman says other Five Cities Fire Authority stations are still covering Oceano.
“I really want to stress that we’re serving Oceano. Yes, there is a risk that the rig not being at the station might cause a slight delay, but we’re still caring for Oceano.” Lieberman said.