Templeton considers contract with Cal Fire for fire service

After more than 100 years serving the community, the volunteer Templeton Fire Department may end its tenure as the city’s main fire service in favor of a contract with Cal Fire.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Templeton Community Services District Board of Directors approved an assessment by Citygate Associates that details possible solutions for the community’s fire service, which relies heavily on volunteer paid-call firefighters, as well as a two-person staff hired by the city.

Citygate found that because the fire department relies on 22 volunteer paid-call firefighters rather than full-time staffing, its response time and number of personnel it can deploy were significantly below what is necessary for emergency response.

The report found that the fire department on-call staffing is “minimally adequate” to handle minor fires and medical calls but can’t handle moderately severe situations with the industry standard of 10 to 16 firefighters arriving at an emergency within 10 minutes.

The report also found that the fire department faced a diminishing volunteer base, which contributed to slower and less successful responses.

In the report, Citygate suggested the district should consider contracting with Cal Fire to have an engine permanently moved to Templeton to provide daily emergency response in the area. The contract would cost the district between $400,000 and $670,000, depending on the number of full-time staffers and their level of training.

Under that model, the volunteer fire department could continue to operate, but the Cal Fire engine would become the city’s main fire response, with supplemental support from the volunteer fire department as needed.

Other options included contracting with fire service agencies such as Atascadero, Paso Robles or Cal Fire to provide daily career staffing to work solely at the Templeton department. This option would cost between $1.3 million and $1.75 million.

District General Manager Jeff Briltz said the board did not take any official action on the fire service at its meeting, directing the district staff to look into the topic further with an emphasis on how to improve the program rather than pursue a contract with an outside agency.

“The board wants staff to make a report on this and make sure that whatever they do, it is what is best for the community,” Briltz said.

The board is planning a public workshop sometime in January.

To see the full report, go to www.templetoncsd.org.