Delano to split from KC Fire: 'blaring issue we could not ignore'

DELANO, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The Delano City Council is cutting its ties with the Kern County Fire Department.

In a recent City Council meeting, members voted 3-2 not to renew the city's $3.2 million contract with the county.

"It was just a blaring issue we could not ignore," said City Council member Joe Aguirre, who voted to sever ties. "Kern County Fire Department is a first-class agency, but the city has been operating in a deficit for over 14 years."

Delano has been trying to find ways to cut costs, and it scrutinized current contracts, said Aguirre. He said no one had apparently reviewed the city's contract with county fire in some time.

"When you get down to those numbers, you obviously start to realize that I think we can run our own department," said Aguirre.

The city plans to start its own fire department, which it once had. Delano has been contracting with the county since 1987 for fire protection services. Aguirre said he expects the city to save around half a million dollars a year in the first five years alone.

"After those five years, it can be anywhere between a million to $1.3 to $1.4 million a year in savings,"said Aguirre.

Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall acknowledged being taken aback by Delano's action. A loss of $3.2 million would be a significant hit to his department.

"We would have 18 extra firefighters that would no longer have fire stations that they work in," said Marshall.

The county operates stations No. 34 and 37 in Delano. According to the Kern County Fire Department, in 2013 both stations responded to a total of 460 fires, 1,157 medical calls, 316 rescues and 108 responses to hazardous materials.

"It's all the services that the Kern County Fire Department provides that the city of Delano would not be able to provide," said Marshall.

Aguirre said he would be agreeable to a $2 million contract to retain the county's services. The city gave the fire department until Friday to come up with an offer.

If no agreement is made, Aguirre said the city plans to move forward and start its own fire department. The city-county contract expires at the end of June.