- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) - California’s largest firefighting agency is one step closer to moving its Southern California home base in an effort to better dispatch resources during wildfires.

A state Senate budget subcommittee recently voted to spend $4 million for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to move from Riverside to former March Air Reserve Base land in Moreno Valley, the Riverside Press-Enterprise (https://bit.ly/1dB0vVX ) reported in Saturday’s editions.

The new facility would serve as a home base for fire managers coordinating wildfires from Northern California to the Mexican border.

While the new operations center won’t be on the March Air Reserve Base, officials said having it nearby could bode well as the Pentagon eyes another round of base closures. The largest air reserve base in the country recently learned that it could lose about 150 workers if the Defense Department’s proposed budget is passed by Congress.

“The more assets we accumulate at March and around March, the better,” said Jamil Dada, chairman of the redevelopment oversight committee for the March Joint Powers Authority. “Cal Fire will play a big part in what the base does.”

The move won’t create new jobs, but it should bring in more business. “It’s a big boost for the community,” Dada said.

It will cost about $50 million to relocate and build the new center, with most of the money coming from bond sales, said Dale Hutchinson, Southern California region chief for Cal Fire.

Fire officials said the new space is big enough to house a training facility and allow them to stage there during massive fires. At the old center, Hutchinson said portable buildings have to be brought in during large fires.

The idea to move to land that was once part of the March Air Reserve Base has been kicked around since 2000. Plans were sped up after a freeway project in 2007 surrounded the current facility.

Ground on the new operations center is expected to be broken in 2015. It should be completed in 18 months to two years.


Information from: The Press-Enterprise, https://www.pe.com



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