Kern County Fire Department is breathing a sigh of relief after the Kern Board of Supervisors approved a multi-million dollar loan so fire could, as Chief Brian Marshall put it, “keep the lights on.”
Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday morning to loan the fire department $14 million to help keep the department out of the red before the end of the fiscal year, June 30.
Kern County firefighters responded to a number of fires and natural disasters outside of the county this past year, including the historic Thomas Fire in Ventura and relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Agencies like Cal Fire and California Office of Emergency Services have been slow to reimburse KCFD more than $15 million for their work on those assignments.
If the county did not extend the loan, KCFD worried about how they could pay for gas for the fire engines, or have access to supplies needed to fight fires.
President of the Kern County Firefighters Association, Derek Robinson, informed the board he had reached out to Kern’s elected officials in California, to make sure the reimbursements were coming in.
“On April 11, $42 million in reimbursements were sent to the state controller’s office,” said Robinson. “They went on to say that those payments should be received by the local entities– the cities and the counties– the early part of May, so we should be expecting our share of that $42.8 million here very shortly so at the end of the day maybe that money comes in and we don’t even need the loan.
Chief Marshall said he was much more optimistic his department will be able to pay back any loans taken quickly with the news of reimbursements coming faster.
KCFD hopes to pay back the loan by July 9, 2018.