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Facing a big budget shortfall, Stanislaus Consolidated to close a fire station Monday

The Stanislaus Consolidated fire station on Yosemite Blvd. between Empire and Waterford pictured Friday October 25, 2019 is closing.
The Stanislaus Consolidated fire station on Yosemite Blvd. between Empire and Waterford pictured Friday October 25, 2019 is closing. jlee@modbee.com

Citing a budget shortfall, Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District is closing a fire station on Yosemite Boulevard near the Fruit Yard restaurant and amphitheater, just west of the Yosemite and Geer Road intersection, east of Modesto.

The fully staffed station will close Monday morning on a temporary basis, Fire Chief Michael Whorton said.

The fire district serving Riverbank, Waterford, Empire and parts of Modesto is trying to deal with a $925,000 shortfall in its budget that runs through June 30, the chief said.

“We are definitely going to open it back up,” Whorton said. “We just have to close it right now because of finances and we will open it again as soon as we can.”

The district did not say when the station will be back in service.

Station 23, at 7737 Yosemite Blvd., is normally a three-person station. Some staff members will be reassigned to the Waterford station, which will become a four-person engine company. The district plans to resurrect a paramedic program and will staff the station in Empire with a medic to improve emergency medical response in the area, Whorton said.

Residents in the area served by Station 23 were nervous about the cut in service. “That leaves us very vulnerable,” Barbara Heckendorf said. “I don’t know where (the firefighters) are going to be coming from. If the Waterford (engines are) out, who is going to be protecting our area?”

Heckendorf said seasonal concerts held at the Fruit Yard amphitheater are a good reason for having emergency responders nearby.

Modesto Fire Chief Alan Ernst said his department was notified of the closure by Stanislaus Consolidated. Ernst is expected to discuss any impact to fire protection with Whorton and the chiefs from Ceres and Turlock at a resource sharing meeting next week.

Ernst said he didn’t know yet how service could be affected east of Modesto. Stanislaus Consolidated, based in Riverbank, responds to incidents in certain parts of Modesto from stations in Empire and the airport neighborhood.

Officials will consider whether closing the Yosemite Boulevard station will require adjustments to the overall emergency response system.

The financial condition of Stanislaus Consolidated was a factor in a decision by Oakdale city and rural fire agencies not to renew a service contract with Consolidated earlier this year. The Oakdale agencies are now contracting for service with Modesto Fire Department.

Whorton did not have a dollar figure on cost savings from not staffing Station 23. The chief said the station has been temporarily closed in tough times before.

“It’s not something that we want to do. But we have to be financially responsible for the department. We just need to get our finances in line,” Whorton said.

Ken Carlson covers county government and health care for The Modesto Bee. His coverage of public health, medicine, consumer health issues and the business of health care has appeared in The Bee for 15 years.
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