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City of Oroville considers contract with Cal Fire, replacing existing fire department

The Oroville City Council held a special meeting Thursday morning to discuss the possibility of Cal Fire taking over fire protection services in the city. Over a dozen community members held a protest outside of the meeting.

Posted: Jan 28, 2021 6:29 PM

OROVILLE, Calif. - Around a dozen people in Oroville gathered for a protest outside of the city chambers on Thursday morning as the city council discussed the possibility of Cal Fire taking over the local fire department. 

Community members say one concern they have is the potential financial impacts. Right now, the city of Oroville is paying approximately $3.5 million on fire services each year. The new contract with Cal Fire would cost around $5.2 million if it moves forward.

The council heard a presentation from Cal Fire during the special meeting that lasted around four hours.

There was no action taken and the direction given was to hear a five-year alternative plan from the Oroville Fire Department at the next regular city council meeting. 

"We would be employed by Cal Fire, employed by the state, but potentially shipped off to other areas, we enjoy providing services for the city, that's what we signed up for," said Joel Harper, who has been with the Oroville Fire Department for 7 years. 

RELATED: Mayor confirms leaked closed session discussion involving switch to Cal Fire for emergency city response

Pastor Stephen Terry, from Oroville, was among the demonstrators, "I am protesting Oroville Fire being contracted by Cal Fire. Cal Fire is a great organization and I have nothing against it. My points are the costs will be too high, people will be offered jobs but they might not be able to stay in Oroville. Most of them are homegrown people," he said.

Oroville City administrator, Bill LaGrone says, "Our employees would become employees of Cal Fire and would be assigned to this station, should they choose to leave to another community, that will be available through Cal Fire but that will be their choice," said LaGrone. 

LaGrone says some benefits of the new contract would be that they will get to fill the El Medio Fire station almost immediately if this moves forward. He also says they would be buying into a much larger organization with more resources.

He says this is part of a six-step process and if the city decides to move forward with the new contract with Cal Fire, the process could take anywhere between 12 to 18 months. 

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Another disturbance will cross northern California through tomorrow. The biggest effect will be stronger wind in the valley tonight through Thursday. There are no watches or warnings for fire danger, but the wind won't help.
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