Board OKs $565,000 for County Fire Dept.

Two years after voters approved a sales tax to raise money for public safety agencies, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to give $565,000 of those funds to the County Fire Department.

The department plans to use $150,000 to train 400 firefighters in urban search-and-rescue techniques used during disasters such as earthquakes.

The department will spend the remaining $415,000 to move its Fire Communications Center at the Camarillo Airport into a larger facility there.

A majority of supervisors in the past have turned down the department's request for Proposition 172 money, collected from a half-cent sales tax approved by California voters in 1993. In the past, supervisors have questioned the department's management practices and whether it was legally entitled to a portion of the sales tax money.

With the check from the county, the department will join the sheriff, district attorney, public defender and probation services in receiving Prop. 172 revenues, estimated at nearly $30 million last year.

"What we are able to do now is simply get on with the future," said Bob Roper, the Fire Department's deputy chief. "The action today has confirmed the legality of our eligibility. As far as ongoing funding, we are not going to rest easy and say we're going to get funding every year."

Roper said the department already has developed lesson plans and will begin training firefighters in search-and-rescue techniques next month. He estimates the department will move staff and new equipment into the larger dispatch facility in Camarillo within eight months.

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