VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE - Vandenberg Fire Department's Chief is speaking out about mandatory furlough days for his firefighters and the demise of the famed "Hot Shots" Unit due to federal sequestration cuts
Widespread concern has been expressed about putting Vandenberg Fire Department firefighters on furlough from July to the end of September at the height of fire season on the Central Coast.
VFD Chief Mark Farias shares the concern but he says his hands are tied.
"There is no good time, this is probably a worse time", Chief Farias says, "but I have no control over that, these are the cards we have been dealt and our motto has always been to adapt and overcome."
Farias acknowledges the sequestration cuts have taken the heaviest toll on the department's famed Hot Shots Unit which will no longer be the same.
"Have the Forest Service fill some of the gaps at the Hot Shots losing 14 over-hire positions, we'll still have seven funded positions", Chief Farias says, "we realize you've got to have a Hot Shots program and the intent is to have some mechanism there, whether it will be the Forest Service or some other entity, we recognize we have to have some type of wildland fire support."
Farias says he has the flexibility to call furloughed firefighters in for duty if there is a significant event or emergency on or off base.
"I have to maintain a sense of optimism going into the next year", Chief Farias says about the sequestration, "you have to have a little bit of faith and optimism that our folks in Washington will find a different solution."
Chief Farias says his department will maintain mutual aid commitments during the furlough period noting Vandenberg Fire Department sent an engine team to a wildfire burning in the Angeles National Forest near Palmdale.
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