You won’t hear sirens or see anyone pulling out hoses at Oceano’s fire station Thursday.
“It’s closed due to inadequate staffing,” said Five Cities Fire Authority Chief, Steve Lieberman.
Five Cities Fire Authority Fire uses part time firefighters at their three locations.
Chief Lieberman says part of the reason they’ve been having trouble recruiting and retaining these employees is because of the low pay.
They can only offer up to $14 an hour, which is a tough sell when it’s expensive to live on the Central Coast and other departments are hiring full time employees.
“So on days when there’s a firefighter that’s unavailable, we’ll take a firefighter from the Grover Beach station and bring them to Oceano to keep the station open. When there’s two of these firefighters that are gone, unfortunately we have to close this location, move the Captain over to Station Two in Grover Beach so they can maintain three person staffing over there. So one less station, one less engine company on the street available for calls, and unfortunately that’s gonna mean longer response time.”
That’s worrisome for some in the Oceano community. “If we have a real emergency like we’ve had over the last several months and stuff, we’re gonna be in trouble,” said Oceano Resident, Lina McClure.
President of the International Association of Firefighters #4403, Patrick Ferguson says they’ve done just about all they can to possibly recruit these part time firefighters. The shortages they have in the Five Cities are being mirrored throughout the county.
“Being able to recruit and retain those people is just impossible at this point. I mean we’ve looked at it from every angle. We have tried in multiple ways to make that a more tenable job position but we’re just not able to do that,” Ferguson explained.
Chief Lieberman hopes Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande and Oceano will consider rearranging their budgets to allow for the hiring of full time firefighters before something major happens. “So it’s a significant issue and we’re looking for the community leaders and politicians to make some tough decisions,” he said.