For the first time in more than a century, one Ventura County community has a new fire department.
The Santa Paula Fire Department has been serving the city since 1903. But on Sunday morning, it officially became part of the Ventura County Fire Department.
“A little bittersweet , but I think overall it’s the best thing for the citizens of Santa Paula. Ventura County has the resources, has the ability to bring in much more than what a little small department can do,” says Fire Chief Rick Araiza, who’s retiring after 32 years with the department.
He says he always faced a budget crisis.
But not anymore. Santa Paula is expected to get better coverage. Its 18 firefighters have been hired by Ventura County Fire with higher pay. And the city will get two new fire stations that it couldn’t otherwise afford.
"I hope that legacy is such that we can look back and say that we made the right choice,” Araiza says.