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County spares Highlands fire engine
September 27, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

County supervisors will keep a fire engine running in the Highlands area of San Mateo County another nine months while awaiting a final analysis on whether it should be closed for good.

The Board of Supervisors, at its annual budget adoption Tuesday, agreed to fund Engine 17 on Tower Road through December when county staff are expected to come back with its final report. The extra months of full staffing costs $750,000.

Although the report is not complete, Deputy County Manager Peggy Jensen said the initial look showed that Station 17, which houses the county Engine 17 in question and other engines operated by the county and state, has a relatively low number of incident calls. Very few calls, too, involve both engines simultaneously called to different situations. Instead, Engine 17 spends a significant amount of time covering for other companies.

San Mateo County has been mulling shared services as a way to cut costs and increase efficiencies. Talks are ongoing with the cities of San Carlos and Redwood City about combining fire services in the Edgewood/Alameda de las Pulgas area and, in June, looked at reducing Engine 17. Station 17 would still house Cal Fire Engine 1. The board asked then for a report back in September on the potential impacts but Jensen said more time is needed for consultants to wrap up their work and gather feedback from the Highlands community.

The consultants also want to look at how much time all engines in the surrounding area spend on training activities.

The supervisors shared some worry about how quickly the engine might be closed once the final report is returned in December but County Manager John Maltbie was hopeful a plan can be worked out to ease the transition.

Maltbie also told the board the $750,000 can be accommodated in the adopted budget.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

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