AUBURN, Calif. --
As many as 20 fire stations in the state could close, including the Cal Fire department station in Auburn, if a proposed budget cut plan is approved.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has asked Cal Fire to cut more than $52 million in budget cuts statewide.
KCRA 3 has learned that because of California's budget crisis, Cal Fire is proposing the closure of 20 fire stations statewide as well as another 11 inmate firefighting camps and one Helitack base.
Fire officials acknowledge that it is conceivable that response times around Auburn could increase as much as 10 minutes in some cases.
Cal Fire officials are now pushing a new taxpayer fee. On average, that fee would also cost Californians an added $10 per year.
According to the governor's Web site, the Wildland Firefighting Initiative would be financed through a 1.25 percent surcharge on all property owners statewide, amounting to about $10-12 per property owner each year.
Daniel Berlant from Cal Fire said the fee would be much like you have the 911 surcharge on your cell phone bill.
That statewide fee would make up for the budget cuts and would keep the stations from closing.
"You're helpless if a fire comes up here," Auburn resident Lee Dawson said.
If the governor's proposed fee is rejected and the cuts become permanent, no firefighters would lose their jobs statewide.
If the state does indeed close the Auburn station, a county fire engine would be available for emergencies.
The Cal Star medical helicopter would also not be affected by the proposed cuts.
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