Cal Fire today laid off 79 seasonal firefighters in Riverside County as part of a plan to conserve funds amid the state's budget woes, a Riverside County fire official said today.
Similar layoff notices went out to seasonal firefighters in San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
The layoffs are expected to save the state $6.3 million, said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.
Cal Fire intends to reduce staffing for at least 17 weeks in the three Southern California counties it serves, but "no permanent employees will lose their jobs," Berlant said.
Riverside County Fire Capt. Julie Hutchinson said in addition to the 79 seasonal firefighters, 14 "limited-term" firefighters, working under contract, were laid off in Riverside County.
"This is not something we would normally do in Southern California because of the year-round season," Hutchinson said. "For the last two years, we've kept every station staffed up. But we have to make sure there's funding available to put firefighters on engines at the highest time of need.
"As soon as we head back into the warmer, dryer weather, we'll be bringing them (seasonal fire personnel) back."
Hutchinson said 35 permanent employees who had been temporarily promoted and relocated around the state for different fire suppression missions will be returning to the county to resume their usual duties, lessening the impact of the layoffs.
Staffing will be reduced from four firefighters per engine to three firefighters at the Anza and Sage wildland fire stations, according to Hutchinson. She added that the Corona Cal Fire station will be closed for the winter.
"The city of Norco already provides protection (for that area)," Hutchinson said. "There will be no impact to the public with the Corona station closed right now."
According to Berlant, if Santa Ana winds kick up, "we will be able to open stations and increase staffing again."
"In the big picture of the state budget, that's our part of it," Berlant said. "This is not ideal by any means, but this is the time for something like this -- when temperatures are low and there is no potential for major fires."