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Valley Could Lose a Third of Its Fire Stations : State budget: The governor's proposed $120-million cutback could have a 'devastating effect' on service, a fire official says.

April 15, 1993|RICHARD WINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN GABRIEL VALLEY — Up to a third of the county-run fire stations in the San Gabriel Valley could be closed if Gov. Pete Wilson's proposed state budget is approved, Los Angeles County fire officials say.

Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman told county supervisors last week that Wilson's plans to cut $120 million that his department receives from the state could force the closure of more than a third of the county's 127 fire stations.

"It has to be spread out evenly," department spokesman Devin Trone said of the possible closures. The San Gabriel Valley has 29 county fire stations that serve 17 cities and all unincorporated territories.

Assistant Fire Chief Gary Lockhart said it is too early to say which fire stations would be closed. A list will be compiled when it is certain the department will lose the state funding, which amounts to a third of the county Fire Department's budget.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 18, 1993 Home Edition San Gabriel Valley Part J Page 2 Column 1 Zones Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Fire department--A story on cutbacks to county fire service in the San Gabriel Valley that ran April 15 incorrectly reported that Pomona is served by the county Fire Department. Pomona is served by its city Fire Department.

"It would have a devastating effect on our ability to provide service," said Lockhart, the county's head firefighter in the San Gabriel Valley, who is based in Azusa. Response times would increase, he said.

City officials warned that public safety will be endangered if a third of the valley's fire stations are closed.

"We can't afford to lose any of our fire stations," said Azusa Mayor Eugene F. Moses, whose city is served by two county fire stations. "I would not feel safe at all. The city of Azusa has a lot of chemicals."

A few years ago a blaze at a local chemical plant got out of control and county firefighters saved the day, Moses said.

Temple City Councilwoman Bobbie McGowan said her city, which contracts with the county for fire protection, will fight to keep its station.

McGowan said she would support an increase in the fee cities pay to the county to maintain stations. County fire officials say Chief Freeman might propose such an increase.

County firefighters serve Azusa, Bradbury, Baldwin Park, Claremont, Diamond Bar, Duarte, Glendora, Hacienda Heights, Industry, Irwindale, La Puente, Pomona, Rosemead, San Dimas, South El Monte, Temple City and Walnut. They also service unincorporated territories of Altadena, Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights and South San Gabriel.

Covina has been considering contracting with the county for fire service to save money. But the city might stick with its own Fire Department if the county cutbacks are severe, officials said.

"If they close down a third of their stations or even a significant number, I have to be concerned about the level of service we will get," Covina Councilman John C. King said.

"It also concerns me that to maintain the county fire service we may have to pay more and more. . . . If we keep a fire department in Covina, we can keep control of the costs."

Moses said the county can operate a fire service more cheaply than a city. However, he said that if any of the county fire stations near Azusa close, the city would have to consider reviving its own fire department.

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