By Ryan Hagen Staff Writer
Posted: 03/17/2011 05:26:23 PM PDT

COLTON – No firefighters will report to Fire Station 213 today or Saturday.

The station, which serves south Colton, is the first to participate in rolling brownouts that will leave each of Colton’s four fire stations – except the Central Station on E Street – closed for two days out of every six.

The change, a compromise the City Council approved 6-1 on Tuesday evening, is designed to avoid a permanent shutdown and equally distribute the burden of budget cuts.

But the plan isn’t fair to the many Reche Canyon residents who will have to wait more than eight minutes for help on days when the nearest station is closed, said Councilwoman Deirdre Bennett, the lone dissenter.

“We’re allowing a part of Colton to be unprotected or have less protection,” she said. “When there’s a disaster or a medical emergency, minutes count.”

Bennett’s district includes Reche Canyon.

Fire Chief Tom Hendrix said the plan – which would leave Station 211, also known as Central Station, open as an administrative center and to respond to calls other stations couldn’t reach as quickly – was the best way to keep the whole city safe and save about $1.4 million per year.

“I’m not trying to minimize (the importance of) response time,” Hendrix said. “It’s a problem. But we’re losing a fire station.”

At other times, the plan will also leave some of the far southern section of the city outside of the eight-minute range, but there are few residents or calls in that area, Hendrix said.

Reche Canyon fires would likely be aggressively attacked by units from surrounding areas – particularly Loma Linda and the county, which also own land in the canyon – but Hendrix cautioned against depending on pre-existing agreements with those agencies.

Councilman Frank Gonzales said he considered the plan an important starting point.

“I have a daughter in Reche Canyon and a grandson who’s very important to me,” he said.

He wouldn’t do anything to endanger them, he said, but cuts had to be made somehow.

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