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Goleta Council Opposes Plan to Reduce Staffing at Storke Road Fire Station

City Council votes to send a letter objecting to Santa Barbara County's cost-cutting proposal for Station 11

The Goleta City Council made it clear Tuesday that it strongly opposes a Santa Barbara County Fire Department cost-cutting plan to reduce staffing at Station 11 in the coming fiscal year.

The county provides fire-protection services to the city, and Station 11, on the corner of Storke Road and Frey Way, serves western Goleta and has six people on duty at all times.

The county’s proposed budget, for the fiscal year beginning July 1, would shut down Engine 11 but keep the station’s ladder truck fully staffed.

The station also is home to a water rescue team and Urban Search and Rescue team.

Cutting half of the current staffing would significantly affect the station’s ability to respond to emergencies in Goleta, especially within the standard of a five-minute response time, according to a city staff report.

Since its incorporation in 2002, Goleta has been trying to build a new fire station and has purchased land at 7952 Hollister Ave. near the Sandpiper Golf Club, but the process hasn’t moved far beyond drawings, Councilman Ed Easton said.

The new Station 10 would need to be in place before anyone even considers cutting staff at Station 11, he said.

The council unanimously voted to send a letter opposing the Station 11 cutbacks to the county Board of Supervisors.

Three county fire stations are within city limits — Station 11, Station 14 at 320 Los Carneros Road and Station 12 at 5330 Calle Real.

Although Station 17 is located near UCSB, its services are limited mostly to the campus and Isla Vista, which are the most populated two square miles in all of California, according to a staff report.

County Fire proposes a $54.5 million budget for 2013-14 and plans to cut 10 full-time firefighter positions, which will be an operating cut of $700,000.

The cuts are due to concessions expiring, since those agreed-upon terms provided one-time savings instead of ongoing savings.

Those 10 cut positions include three firefighters associated with Engine 11 in Goleta and two firefighters from a position at Orcutt’s Station 22.

The county Board of Supervisors, like other local leaders, is considering next year’s budget and will make final decisions in June. The full Santa Barbara County budget can be viewed by clicking here.

The City of Goleta also honored FLIR Systems Inc. with an award for its contributions to the search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings who was found with the company’s infrared camera technology on law enforcement helicopters.

Tsarnaev hid in a boat in the backyard of a Watertown, Mass., home as police searched for him after the bombs allegedly set by he and his brother went off near the finish line of the marathon on April 15.

The homeowner called police and the helicopter’s cameras — designed and built by FLIR in Goleta — spotted Tsarnaev and could tell he wasn’t armed with firearms or explosives, according to news reports.

Mayor Roger Aceves awarded the proclamation to General Manager Bill Terre, who oversees the 400 employees in the Goleta facility.

The infrared technologies are used locally for law enforcement agencies as well, and the Sheriff’s Department uses them for detonated devices cases, missing persons, marijuana growing operations and missing hikers, Aceves said.

As a retired police officer, he especially appreciates the time saved by using the infrared cameras and keeping many people out of harm’s way with a quicker capture, he said.

“We recognize them for innovation and their many contributions to the nation’s public safety,” Aceves said.

The city’s Public Works Department is buying two FLIR cameras for intersection traffic control on a trial basis as well.

“The technology that we’ve created and designed and fabricated here locally can be used in the pursuit of having the good guys prevail over the bad guys and that’s really quite satisfying,” Terre said.

The cameras are also invaluable for firefighting trying to find areas burning that are hidden under thick smoke, said Councilman Michael Bennett, who is a retired County Fire employee.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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