San Juan council sets special meeting to discuss fire response

Firefighters fight the blaze in San Juan Bautista on Monday.

The City of San Juan Bautista will hold a special meeting next week to discuss the local fire department’s response time to the Franklin Circle blaze that damaged a house.
A mechanical failure in the catalytic converter of a truck traveling on Highway 156 sparked four fires in the San Juan Bautista area Monday afternoon, including a blaze that destroyed a home on Franklin Circle.
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the city hall building on 311 Second Street in San Juan Bautista.
San Juan Bautista resident Gabriela Candelaria, who lives next to the home damaged by flames, contended Monday evening that recent changes to the local department—Hollister fire now oversees coverage throughout the county—delayed the emergency response.
“In the last two years, our volunteer fire department has met a lot of political issues,” Candelaria told the Free Lance Monday afternoon as she watched firefighters spray water at the neighbor’s tree. “In this instance, it took 20 to 25 minutes for someone to respond.”
Records pulled by Hollister Interim Fire Chief Bill Garringer on Tuesday afternoon showed it took San Juan Bautista firefighters about eight minutes to arrive on scene, the chief about 14 minutes, Hollister’s Engine 13 about 15 minutes and Hollister’s Engine 11 about 22 minutes.
“I don’t think it was very fair for the person to say it took 20-25 minutes to get there,” said Garringer on Tuesday afternoon, adding that a typical drive to Hollister would be about 12 minutes but traffic caused delays Monday afternoon. “We’re basically trying to get to San Juan Bautista on the shoulder of the road and even with red lights and sirens there’s no way for anyone to get out to the way.”
Eight fire department engines responded to the hillside blaze that threatened houses, the interim fire chief said. Calfire managed the other three fires that stretched about 10 to 12 acres along the highway, said Dennis King, the Calfire battalion chief of Monterey.

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