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Chico Fire Station 3 operates with one firefighter

Published On: Jul 16 2013 08:19:10 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 16 2013 08:20:01 PM CDT
CHICO, Calif. -

Chico Fire Station 3 is down to one firefighter for the first time on Tuesday and the community and the department are both concerned.

The cutback was announced on Monday. The following day, the station essentially went "out of service".

Chico residents who live around the airport are now left wondering how long it will take firefighters to get to their homes in the event of a fire or medical emergency.

“It’s kind of dangerous. The response time is a lot longer so I don't know what we can do about it,” said Robert Thomasson, a Chico rancher.

Thomasson has had a 500-acre ranch in his family for the past five generations and has always relied on Chico Fire for protection. Because Engine 3 no longer covers his property, he said he has decided to be proactive.

“We are always ready. We keep our grass down as much as possible. We'll have the cows eat it down mostly,” said Thomasson.

The Chico residents are not the only ones concerned. There is also the one firefighter left at Fire Station 3.

“It was different," said Lt. J.P. Gassiot, who started working alone for the first time on Tuesday. "For the 20 years of my career, I’ve always had somebody else in the station with me and so to be by myself this morning was definitely a change."

“Before, I would have two other bodies in the initial stages of an incident and now, without that, I’ll be myself in the initial stages,” said Gassiot.

The cuts were announced by Chico Fire Chief Jim Beery on Monday afternoon following the city council's announcement of widespread budget cuts, including a $1.6 million cut to the fire department.

Beery said the plan will save the department $2,500 a day while allowing commercial flights at the Chico Airport to continue.

“So all of that is now falling on my plate,” said Gassiot.

Chico Fire said that the area that was once covered by only Station 3 will now be shared by other stations.

Chief Beery said he will still have to cut another shift at another station to finish balancing the budget.