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Santa Rosa City Commission gives green light to new volunteer fire department

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With their city’s mayor saying that leadership within the Santa Rosa Volunteer Fire Department is “not to par,” members of the commission unanimously moved to approve an agreement that would create a new volunteer fire department during a special meeting Monday evening. 

The new department, which was referred to as an association, will replace the current incorporation effective April 1.

The vote happened despite claims from members of the current department that the city has not been properly assisting with maintenance of their fleet and operating with poor equipment.

Yolanda Gonzales, the volunteer fire department’s current chief, was the first among the three firefighters to address the city commission during public comment.

She spoke with Channel 5 News moments before the meeting began, claiming that both she and her fellow volunteers have been targeted by the city.

“The politics needs to stop — the harassment needs to stop,” Gonzales said. “It’s like we’re being discriminated (against) for being members of the fire department. We have enough to worry about when we respond to a fire. There’s no reason to break down the department.”

The tension between officials and volunteers comes as a lawsuit is actively going on between the city and volunteer fire department. Although it was not discussed during the public meeting, Gonzales said it concerns the property of the fire department, an area that she says was donated by the American Legion.

After the meeting was adjourned, Santa Rosa city administrator Jared Hockema stated that many of the points mentioned by the current fire department carried a level of “misinformation,” and that the core of the problem is tied to the department’s command structure, an issue quite similar to an incident in years past.

“I think you have a situation where you have some members of the fire department that seem to have a disagreement with people in town, and it’s not a productive situation, so we’re trying to remedy that,” Hockema said.

Hockema added that fire response times will not be affected as the city transitions to the new volunteer fire department.

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