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CalFire to run Cambria Fire Department

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Effective July 1, Cal Fire is in charge of the Cambria Fire Department.

The Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) Board of Directors decided on June 25 to enter into a contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. The one-year, $228,856 contract will hand over management to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Eric Shalhoob, who’s in charge of battalion training for SLO County. Shalhoob’s new post will include serving as chief of Cal Fire’s station in Cambria and taking over for outgoing Cambria Fire Chief Mark Miller, who’s retiring this month.

The new agreement follows rising safety concerns, as especially dry conditions have increased fire risk in the community known as “Pines by the Sea.” The area is heavily populated by Monterey pines, which are dying at increased rates due to a combination of factors, including drought conditions, invasive mistletoe, pine pitch canker, and age.

In the spring, the San Luis Obispo County grand jury released a report critical of the current state of Cambria’s emergency services, citing concerns about outdated equipment and the lack of a long-term strategy to improve things. The report recommended that the CCSD work with Cal Fire in drafting long-term response plans.

During the June 25 meeting, CCSD General Manager Jerry Gruber concurred with the report’s findings and recommended that CCSD directors approve the contract with Cal Fire. CCSD Directors Mike Thompson and Muril Clift will serve on an ad-hoc committee to consider a long-term management plan.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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