Chester Fire and Ambulance Services will begin transitioning to a volunteer department immediately.
The decision was handed down after the Chester Public Utility District board agreed with the recommendations of General Manager Adam Cox.
Cox added that with a volunteer department, there would still be the necessity to maintain a part-time Chief and administration.
Scott Packwood, Battalion Chief with Calfire’s Lassen Modoc Unit, was present at last evening’s meeting. Chief Packwood detailed what it would look like for Calfire to step in, yet said it would cost roughly 2.2 million to run at a bare minimum—a cost out of reach for the floundering district.
As emotions were high from the community in the room, the board members stressed none of them wanted to close the fire department. However, Board Member Steve Vorbril clarified it’s rather a reorganization, transitioning to a volunteer department, and keeping the door open to reach the goal of a full-time department once again; Vorbril emphasized the board “has to draw the line somewhere.”
GM Cox said there is no set date for the last day of service for the Fire Department as the situation will have to be evaluated on a daily basis. He explained that if two more fire staff leave, they will be operating below minimum staffing and will have to run overtime, which will incur more costs CPUD cannot afford.
The decision to transition to a volunteer department was unanimous. Fire staff will have through February to find other employment as CPUD begins the changes.