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Downtown fire prompts discussion of fire services

City Council Update

A letter received by the City of Tehachapi was brought before the City Council at their March 20 meeting. Sue Page of Tehachapi wrote to complain about the length of time it took for fire crews to respond to a house fire at 520 E. D St.

Page said the fire was reported about 8:15 p.m. on March 8 and although the fire station was less than a mile from the fire, trucks did not appear until about 30 minutes later and it was Keene (Station 11) that responded. Station 12 on Curry and Valley Blvd., as well as Golden Hills and Mojave stations, had responded to a call of a fire in Sand Canyon, an area which is outside the city limits but is also covered by Station 12 and 13.

Division Chief Andrew Kennison and Batallion Chief Jason Shillinger of Kern County Fire appeared before the council to answer their questions. City Councilman Phil Smith and Councilwoman Susan Wiggins both suggested a renegotiation of the agreement with Kern County Fire. City Manager Greg Garrett said that when the contract was signed in 2021, the cities using Kern County Fire were told that their rate would be increased by 6,000%. When they protested, they were told to “take it or leave it.” The city must now pay $2.2 million in the next five years where it paid $19,000 in 2021/22. Garrett also explained that the communities outside of the city pay their fire protection fees with their property taxes. The city pays additional. These increases were one of the reasons the city asked the voters for an increase in the sales tax last November.

The Tehachapi City Council meets on the first and third Monday of the month at 6 p.m. They are currently meeting at the Police Department Community Room, 220 W. C St.