To help save money in 2008, Atwater began contracting its fire protection services from Cal Fire. But the arrangement that was once viewed as a way to save money is now being viewed as an expense that could be eliminated. The cost, now more than $2.2 million per year exceeds the $1.9 million spent in the final year of the in-house fire services.

That has raised the question of whether or not the city should revert to using its own fire department. Reinstating the department would be no small challenge, and the idea has only been floated for less than a month. But a split council decided to issue a notice of termination to Cal Fire and begin negotiating for either a new deal or the end of the current contract.

The city now has 30 days to decide whether or not to follow through on the termination or extend a new contract with Cal Fire.

From the Merced Sun-Star:

Controversy and firefighters filled the standing-room-only council chambers Monday night, as the Atwater City Council debated whether to terminate its Cal Fire contract and return to a city-run fire department.

The item, which lasted more than two hours, raised serious concerns about the future of fire protection in Atwater and the cost to the city. Some claimed a city-run fire department would save the city money; others claimed the city is better off using Cal Fire services.

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