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Floor collapses; fire station closed

Madera County has closed Fire Station 3 in Madera Acres after a floor collapsed under a firefighter’s bed June 24.

“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.”

In 1986, a 16-year-old trailer was set up at 25950 Ave 18 1/2, and a Butler building erected to house a fire engine, said Allen. The property is owned by the Madera Valley Water Company. Until around 10 years ago, there was no charge for use of the property, Allen said, but then 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,” said 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 the station’s response area, and sleeping at Station 6 in the city of Madera during the night. Response time is only one or two minutes longer from Station 6, Allen said.

Allen said he has been meeting with Eric Fleming, the county’s chief administrative officer and with Sheriff Jay Varney, and hopes they will have office space and be able to park Engine 3 at the Sheriff’s Office during the day while continuing to use Station 6 for a sleeping firefighter.

“Response times won’t change, coverage won’t change, just where the firefighters sleep at night,” he says.

Extra volunteer engines will be staffed in the Valley this weekend, providing additional coverage, Allen said.

For now, authorities are trying to find a house or property they can lease to put up an RV structure. Meanwhile, Cal Fire and the county seek property for a permanent and new Station 3.

“There are three pieces of property we’re looking at,” said Allen. “The county owns one, another is for sale, and the third is one we’ve been looking at and are asking the landowner 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 county’s Board of Supervisors soon. “Both Station 1 and Station 3 need to be replaced,” said Allen, noting that dilapidated county fire stations has been a concern since he became division chief for the 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,” said Allen, “and we’ve been talking with the county for two years. It’s time to sit down and come up with a plan.”



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