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Morgan Hill Is First City To Sign Fire Service Pact With Cal Fire

MORGAN HILL (CBS SF) -- After a 17-year hiatus, the Morgan Hill City Fire Department has rejoined with Cal Fire, state fire officials said on Thursday.

Morgan Hill became the first city in Santa Clara County to join in a fire services pact with Cal Fire when its contract with Santa Clara fire ended at 8 a.m. Thursday morning, according to Cal Fire Operations Chief Derek Witmer.

The city's fire department was dissolved in 1995 due to lack of funding and the Morgan Hill City Council contracted with the Santa Clara County Fire Department to save money, Witmer said.

Morgan Hill has switched to Cal Fire to save funds, Witmer said.

Cal Fire, operating as the Morgan Hill City Fire Department, will employ 22 in-line firefighters, two battalion chiefs and two 911 call center operators in a cost sharing arrangement with the city, Witmer said.

Witmer described the Santa Clara County Fire Department as "an outstanding fire organization" that covers the county's unincorporated areas and has fire service contracts with cities such as Los Gatos, Saratoga and Los Altos Hills.

Cal Fire has eight state fire stations in Santa Clara County employing as many as 200 firefighters, including seasonal workers during the fire season from May 15 to Nov. 15, down to 100 during colder months when fires are less common, spokesman Matt Streck said.

Morgan Hill and Cal Fire have ordered two new fire engines and a ladder truck - to have the city fire department's new logo painted on them - from Pierce Manufacturing in Wisconsin that should arrive by April or May.

"The city has unique needs," Streck said. "You can't just go out and buy a stock fire engine. It has to be custom made."

The county, which uses fire engine models from a different manufacturer, also needs its fire engines back, Witmer said.

In the meantime, Cal Fire and Morgan Hill are leasing a ladder truck from Santa Clara County fire and engines from two other fire agencies, Streck said.

Cal Fire has been contracting its services, from firefighting to training, with cities, counties and water districts in California since the 1930s, Streck said.

About half of Cal Fire's personnel in the state are now working on a contractual basis for places like Riverside, San Diego and Tuolumne counties and the cities of Soledad in Monterey County and Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County, Streck said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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