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Cayucos Fire Department will dissolve in December

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SLO County will take over the Cayucos Fire Department next month, amid local opposition to retain local control through the end of the year.

The district's board voted 2-1 at a Nov. 1 meeting to dissolve the Cayucos Fire Department and give fire protection responsibilities to the county on Dec. 1. Current firefighters at the department will be replaced with the county's first responders.

The Cayucos Firefighters Association posted a message on its Facebook page on Nov. 15 stating that the board's end date was against the requests of the public and the department. The association asked to keep the department open until Jan. 2, 2019.

CHANGING HANDS The Cayucos Fire Department is handing over fire protection responsibilities to San Luis Obispo County on Dec.1. - FILE PHOTO BY PETER JOHNSON
  • File Photo By Peter Johnson
  • CHANGING HANDS The Cayucos Fire Department is handing over fire protection responsibilities to San Luis Obispo County on Dec.1.

"There is more than enough money in our budget to keep the department open for several more months," the post stated.

The Facebook post also said that a fund had been established to help firefighters, as severance pay or compensation isn't included in the transition.

"It's not that the board is being mean, callous, or uncaring. It's that this is the direction that the board is going in," said Steve Beightner, president of the district's board.

Beightner said that most of the firefighters who contributed to the department are reserves that come from other areas such as Paso Robles, Templeton, and Santa Maria, and are paid a daily stipend.

"I have no way to give them a bonus, and I have no way to give them a severance package," he said.

After four years of struggling to keep the fire department afloat, in June 2017 the district's board created a six-person advisory committee to research three options for the future of the fire department. The board ultimately voted to dissolve the fire department.

A year later at a SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors unanimously voted to fully staff a structure fire engine and pay for necessary upgrades at the current fire station.

"It's been a hard decision, but, ultimately, to meet the needs of the community I think this is an action that needed to be taken," Beightner said. "I think that we have tried to cover as many bases as possible, and we tried to maintain as many opportunities that we can for the community."

On Dec. 1, Beightner said the department will hold an open house so the community can have the opportunity to thank its former firefighters and meet the new first responders.

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