MADERA COUNTY — After the floor of the sleeping quarters at Madera County Fire Station 3 collapsed under the bed of a firefighter last Saturday night, officials have closed down the building, and are exploring options to build a new station.
The deplorable state of the trailer used to house the firefighters who man Station 3 is nothing new, and this is not the first time the floor has given way.
“It’s literally falling apart,” says Cal Fire Division Chief Dave Allen. “We’ve had two separate incidents where captains have been asleep in their beds, and the beds have fallen through the floor.”
Back in 1986, a then-16-year-old trailer was set up on the property at 25950 Ave 18 1/2 in the Madera Acres area, and a Butler building was erected to house the engine, says Chief Allen. The property is owned by the Madera Valley Water Co.
For many years, there was no charge for use of the property, but about 10 years ago, Allen says the company began charging $1,200 a month for use of the land.
“That facility is falling apart, and when the bed fell through the floor a month ago, the County came out and put a sheet of plywood over it,” says Chief Allen. “There is rat and raccoon feces in the ducts under the building, the outer walls are rotten, the floor joist are rotting out, and the firefighters called Saturday and said they had to keep the door to the back room closed because of the stench. It smells like there’s something dead under there.”
Station 3 is manned by just one firefighter on a shift, and that firefighter is now manning the engine in Station 3’s response area, and sleeping at Station 6 during the night. Station 6 is a Madera City station, and Allen says it’s only 1 to 2 minutes longer response time.
Allen says he has been meeting with Eric Fleming, Chief Administrative Officer for the County, and with Sheriff Varney, and hopes that they will have office space and be able to park Engine 3 at the Sheriff’s Office during the day, and use Station 6 for sleeping the firefighter.
Chief Allen assures residents that they still have fire coverage in the Station 3 area, and the Sheriff’s Office is about 1-1/2 miles from Station 3’s current location.
“Response times won’t change, coverage won’t change, just where the firefighters sleep at night,” he says.
Allen also notes that there will be extra volunteer engines staffed in the Valley for the 4th of July weekend, providing additional coverage.
That’s what’s happening in the short-term. Mid-term, they’re trying to find a house or something they can lease and put up an RV structure. Long term, Cal Fire and the County are looking at property to buy and put up a new Station 3.
“There are three pieces of property we’re looking at,” says Chief Allen. “The County owns one, another is for sale, and the third is one we’ve been looking at and are asking the land owner if he’s willing to sell. That is a little farther to the east.”
Allen says they are putting together a proposal to present to the Board of Supervisors in the very near future.
“Both Station 1 and Station 3 need to be replaced,” says Allen, noting that the dilapidated condition of some of Madera County’s Fire Stations has been a concern since he moved into the position of Division Chief for Madera-Mariposa-Merced Cal Fire Unit two years ago.
“We’ve been working for the last six or eight months with Eric [Fleming] to put together a plan,” says Allen, and we’ve been talking with the County for two years. It’s time to sit down and come up with a plan.”