VALLEY SPRINGS — "Closed due to staffing" — the message draped across a Calaveras Consolidated Fire Protection District station reads loud and clear.
The chief said he has no choice.
This weekend, the fire district was forced to brown out one of its two fire stations for a day, and more closures are ahead. Chief Rich Dickinson said that big banner, with letters written in fire engine red, is the best way to let his community know.
Chief Dickinson said it's a decision he wishes he didn't have to make.
"We're going to be browning out more. I decided to buy that sign, to put it upfront so that people understand the firehouse is closed and why it's closed," he told CBS Sacramento via Zoom.
The fire district's staff is now down to just 13 firefighters, and Chief Dickinson said he's lost 40 since he started here six years ago.
The attrition problem comes from competition and San Francisco Bay Area fire department compensation.
"To be honest, the staff that I have left, they're working a lot of hours," Dickinson said. "And at some point, there's a breaking point."
The Calaveras Consolidated Fire District covers 168 square miles with only two operating stations, one of which will now be closed some days due to low staffing.
Dickinson is proposing a tax hike next year to help solve the money trouble. In the meantime, the banner will be up when this fire station is closed down.
"I'm not being vindictive. I'm not being a chief that's trying to go 'OK, you want to play hardball?' " he said. "I don't want that. It hurts me to not have that fire station open. It hurts the board. It hurts the firefighters. Nobody feels good about that."
Last year, Calaveras County voters denied a tax increase that would have increased funding for nine fire districts. Richardson hopes to have a new measure for his district on a ballot next spring.
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