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Fire season roars to life as Cayucos fire department dissolves 

The Cayucos Fire Protection District is definitively dissolving its department and looking to San Luis Obispo County to fill the gap, but the road to future fire service for the community may be a long one.

Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) Executive Officer David Church said settling on what level of fire service the county can provide to the community is vital. It could take a few more months than anticipated due to this year’s fire season.

“This one is a little more complex because you do have fire issues to work through, so it depends on the discussions between the county and the district,” Church said.

Those discussions will have to deal with the department’s financial struggles and the fact that it’s still providing fire service to Cayucos. Church said usually the process of dissolution occurs because a district or community is no longer using a service or department.

“You got to have that conversation and it has got to be one that’s fruitful and brings together options,” he said.

The Central Coast region is finding itself at the start of high temperatures and dry vegetation, which makes it vulnerable to fire, and Church said that fact just points out the critical nature of fire service.

After struggling to keep the department afloat with reserve volunteer firefighters and antiquated infrastructure, Cayucos fire district board President Steve Beightner said the board voted at the July 6 meeting to submit an application of dissolution to LAFCO and proceed with the county. The Fire Protection District maintains its stance on negotiating with the county to keep the fire department at its existing location and maintaining a reserve firefighter program. With a busy start to the fire season, he said the community needs to be covered with a reliable fire department.

“We can rely on the volunteers we have now, but with a career department we’re tied into a much larger organization and we’ll have more resources available to us,” he said.

At the July 6 meeting, Fire Chief Mike Minetti announced his retirement after 46 years with the department. Beightner said that the former fire chief announced his retirement due to health reasons, which just compounds the community’s situation.

“We cannot continue to provide the level of service, I think, the community of Cayucos wants for the amount [of money] we have to work with,” Beightner said.
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