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Canyon Lake continues fire service contract with county


Last updated 6/25/2019 at 7:52pm

RIVERSIDE - The city of Canyon Lake's lone firehouse will be fully staffed for another year, under a $2.23 million contract approved on Tuesday, June 25 by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

The agreement, which takes effect July 1 and expires on June 30, 2020, will mark the third year that county fire service is available 24/7 in Canyon Lake, after a nearly two-year period during which the city's Vacation Drive fire station was vacant.

Under the new compact, a county fire engine and three-person crew will be on duty around the clock. The number of calls estimated for the coming fiscal year is just over 800, based on prior years' records, according to the fire department.

Canyon Lake, a gated municipality of about 11,000 residents, is the only city in Riverside County to cancel fire services in the last decade.

Canyon Lake shuttered its firehouse on July 1, 2015, after the city and county became embroiled in legal wrangling over nearly $2 million in unpaid fire services bills, which Canyon Lake representatives at the time blamed on increased firefighter staffing that the city did not want and could not afford. Officials said budgetary reserves were depleted paying for county public safety services.

The result was a 57-page breach of contract lawsuit in which the county alleged that, beginning in the last half of the 2013-14 fiscal year, Canyon Lake stopped making payments under the fire protection contract that went into effect on July 1, 2011.

The suit was resolved in the fall of 2015, when Canyon Lake agreed to reimburse the county $1.7 million.

However, the Canyon Lake City Council kept the local fire station closed while examining the prospects of establishing an independent fire department.

Between July 2015 and May 2017, the city paid for fire protection on an as-needed basis, with fire trucks from Lake Elsinore and Menifee responding to 911 calls in the city. Response times ran as long as 15 minutes, and the city, through the offices of Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, eventually reached a compromise agreement with the county to reopen the on-site fire station in June 2017.

Initially, the city only paid for a two-person crew on the fire engine, which is below county-mandated minimum staffing. Three-person staffing was restored under last year's contract.


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