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Santa Margarita Fire Department receives wildfire safety grant to strengthen disaster response

Santa Margarita Fire Department
Gabriela Fernandez
/
Santa Margarita Fire Department parks their fire truck outside their station.

The Santa Margarita Fire Department is receiving a $10,000 wildfire safety grant provided by PG&E and the California Fire Foundation to help strengthen disaster response along the central coast.

The fire station is the smallest in SLO County, with about a dozen volunteer firefighters.

Robert Murach is the Fire Chief for Santa Margarita’s Fire Department. He said with limited resources, the station relies on any opportunity to apply for grants to replace outdated equipment.

“We apply for a lot of grants because our funding is small. So I go after grants every single year,” Murach said.

Murach said next year, he hopes to invest in a backup generator for the station.

Santa Margarita Fire Department
Gabriela Fernandez
/
Santa Margarita Fire Department hangs uniforms for their volunteers.

Santa Margarita is a small town of about 1,000 people, just north of San Luis Obispo. About 100 years ago the town established their first fire department, then in the 1960s they finally built the station they are in now.

Since 2018 the California Fire Foundation, also known as CFF, has worked with PG&E to provide grants for fire departments across the state. This year, they chose to fund new emergency radios for Santa Margarita to help with fire preparedness.

CFF spokesperson Carroll Wills said they’ve been doing this since 2018 and their goal is to raise awareness about wildfire safety and provide funding for small underserved fire agencies.

“We've been able to award more than 500 grants in total, more than $9 million. We are providing, I would say, really important supplemental support for fire departments and communities in areas where they're just not going to necessarily have the resources,” Wills said.

PG&E has a long track record of starting wildfires with their equipment, like the 2018 Camp Fire, California’s deadliest wildfire to date. Wills said he cannot comment on that history, but said grants like these will help prevent large fires by strengthening small departments’ fire preparedness.

Last year, Santa Margarita received $13,000 from this same grant to fund a wildland hose and wildfire turnout equipment.

Gabriela Fernandez is a general assignment reporter at KCBX News. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an Associate Producer on the TahoeLand podcast.