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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | WEST COUNTY / FILLMORE

Chief Says Volunteer Fire Unit in Jeopardy

November 06, 1998|MARK ARMSTRONG

The defeat of a police and fire services utility tax could kill Fillmore's volunteer Fire Department, Fire Chief Pat Askren said Thursday.

City officials are expected to determine within two weeks what is next for the department, which will soon celebrate its 85th anniversary.

"There is no next, as far as I'm concerned," Askren said. "We'll continue on the path we're going. Our response times will slow down . . . and maybe voters will look at it again. I was accused of making threats before the election, but these aren't threats, these are facts."

Measure D would have increased the 20-person department's annual budget from $240,000 to $360,000.

To beef up the volunteer ranks, the department had planned to build a new station closer to the homes of many volunteers. Askren said that providing new living quarters for out-of-town volunteers would have drawn in more young firefighters.

Voters in Fillmore shot down the proposed utility increase by a margin of 70% to 30%, with 1,743 ballots cast in opposition. Had the measure been approved, city officials estimated that the average household would have faced a $10 increase in monthly utility bills.

The Fillmore branch of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department also foresees cuts in staffing and possible closure of the north Fillmore storefront station.

City Councilman Roger Campbell, a retired Fire Department volunteer, said he believes that the danger isn't immediate, but that the city will try to be creative with its funding to continue the fire service, which it has provided for residents since 1914.

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