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Council reorganizes fire department

A unanimous Costa Mesa City Council approved a cost-saving restructuring of the Fire Department on Tuesday that will close a fire station near South Coast Plaza.

Combined, all of the planned changes will save the city $1.83 million a year, according to city staff.

No layoffs are associated with the plan.

Metro Fire Station, a block east of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts at 3350 Sakioka Drive, is slated to close within a year. Costa Mesa officials plan to meet with South Coast Metro-area business owners and residents regarding potential impacts of the closure.

Because Metro serves the smallest population of the city's six stations — about 3,000 residents — and the smallest geographical coverage area — .6 square miles — officials said the closure is unlikely to have much of an impact on the community.

But the closure will affect the section of Santa Ana that borders Costa Mesa and receives some mutual aid from the CMFD, said interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold.

"For Costa Mesa, it's a pretty small difference," he told the council.

An Orange County Fire Authority station on MacArthur Boulevard in Santa Ana, as well as Costa Mesa's station on Baker Street, will continue to assist the area.

Deputy Chief Fred Seguin said Wednesday that changes to the department's emergency response times as a result of Metro's closure are difficult to predict.

Dynamics that come into play, such as traffic, affect the times greatly — even to the point that firefighters from the Metro station have been able to reach the corner of Anton Boulevard and Bristol Street at the same time as those from the Baker station, even though Metro is closer, Seguin said.

Arnold's restructuring plan also implements a department-wide increase of on-duty paramedic-firefighters from 10 to 13, though with a reduction in total on-duty personnel from 29 to 25.

City officials said 70% of the department's calls are for medical responses, not fires, which are about 2%.

The 12 Metro station employees will be reassigned, said acting Battalion Chief Chris Coates.

Arnold hopes the city will retain the building and station so it may one day be used again, Coates said.

"We're not going to demolish it," he said. "It's not going to be completely closed ... it will be un-staffed for an undisclosed amount of time."

The Metro station opened in 1993 at cost of about $3.4 million, according to Los Angeles Times archives. The land for the station was donated by the Sakioka family, who still maintains a large working farm less than a mile away.

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