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Fresno City Council pulls plug on North Central fire agreement

A firefighter from the North Central Fire District calls for assistance in putting out a fire at a house in July 2005.
A firefighter from the North Central Fire District calls for assistance in putting out a fire at a house in July 2005. Fresno Bee file photo

The Fresno City Council voted Thursday to cancel a firefighting agreement between the city and the North Central Fire Protection District.

The deal, which has been in effect since July 2007, was originally for a 30-year term. But the council voted 6-1, with Councilman Luis Chavez dissenting, to terminate the agreement because it is costing the city more to provide firefighting for a 250-square-mile area of rural Fresno County west of the city than the district is paying for the service.

Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd said North Central currently pays the city about $5.1 million per year for the Fresno Fire Department to staff its stations in Kerman, Biola and near Kearney Park, and to respond to fires and emergencies across the district. But the costs to provide 46 firefighting staff for the district are closer to $7 million a year.

The cancellation will become effective in mid-December, nine months after a termination letter that the city sent to the North Central board earlier this month.

“If they want professional Fresno city firefighters, they’re going to need to pay for them,” Councilman Garry Bredefeld said.

But Chavez said he wasn’t comfortable with suddenly cutting the strings on the agreement. “We should keep talking with our partners,” he said, explaining his vote against the cancellation.

Rudd said the city had been in informal discussions with the district for about a year but had not been able to reach a resolution. The city’s termination notice to the district also canceled a scheduled April 28 mediation session between the two sides.

 
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