Vallejo firefighters battle two overnight fires


Only one fire engine pulled up to the fire at the church at 2:15 this morning. With businesses on both sides of the burning church, they needed more resources, but there was no one left in Vallejo to call.

"Initially knowing we were by ourselves, I feared for the worse and thought we would probably lose the building," said Vallejo Fire Captain John Barry.

All the other fire crews were at a house fire, which broke out about 15 minutes before the church fire. When the second call came in, firefighters at the house said it was tough to watch a crew leave.

"We needed resources to stay, but at the same time we needed resources on the other fire; so that's the price of doing business," said Vallejo Fire Dept. Spokesperson Arthur Gonzales.

Doing business in Vallejo has been tough since the city filed for bankruptcy in 2008. That meant closing down half of its fire stations. Firefighters really felt the shortage overnight. But, they say it could have been worse; a federal grant has helped them start rebuilding the fire department.

"In the past year and a half we've hired 15 people which allowed us to open Station 25 and put additional personnel on the truck," said Gonzales.

Without those additions, they say there would have been no one to send to the church fire. But they're still down six firefighters and had to rely on mutual aid from other cities to put out the fire at the Peace Baptist Church.

Vallejo's mayor was unsure when he would be able to get the fire department back up to pre-bankruptcy staff levels, but he said that is the goal.

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