CASTROVILLE—The North County Fire District held a badge pinning ceremony Tuesday at its main fire station in Castroville, welcoming seven newly promoted firefighters.
Attendees to the ceremony included 2nd District Supervisor John Phillips and his staff, Fire District board members and friends and family of the new firefighters.
The group consists of five full-time firefighters that were promoted on Feb. 1 and two others that were promoted to full-time status in 2021. All seven were previously employed as Reserve Firefighters for North County Fire.
The district serves the unincorporated communities between the Santa Cruz-Monterey county line and the City of Marina, City of Salinas and the community of Aromas. In total, its area of coverage is about 125 square miles. The district has three fire stations, and, now, 10 firefighters on duty per day.
Since laying off five firefighters in 2019, North County Fire has been understaffed compared to communities of similar size and population.
The hiring of the seven firefighters was made possible by last year’s approval of a Proposition 218 benefit assessment by district residents. The assessment, which passed with roughly 58% of the vote, handed a typical single-family property owner a $97.91 annual charge so that the district could address staffing shortages, fire apparatus replacement and fire station maintenance and repairs.
The addition of the new firefighters will help the district better handle medical aid calls, vehicle accidents and all fires, specifically wildland and structure fires, Fire Chief Joel Mendoza said. In addition, the increased staffing will help ensure that the North County Fire is meeting strict Cal-OSHA requirements and National Fire Protection Association guidelines and recommendations.
“The addition of these new firefighters exemplifies the fire district’s commitment to providing a well-trained and prepared department that will deliver exceptional public safety,” Division Chief Jess Mendoza said in a press release.