Sonora Fire Department

The Sonora Fire Department headquarters at 201 S. Shepherd St. in downtown Sonora.

The Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California are planning to finance, build, equip, and staff a brand new fire station on tribally-owned property in the Jamestown area, which is expected to open in late 2023 or early 2024 before the completion of the tribe’s new resort that’s currently under construction.

The tribe is planning to work with the Sonora Fire Department to establish an emergency services partnership at the tribe’s future fire station, Monica Fox, the Chicken Ranch tribal administrator, said Thursday. The agreement “is intended to help strategize staffing needs” for the new fire and emergency services facility being developed on tribal lands, Fox said.

Asked where the new fire station will be located, Fox said the tribe is not disclosing that information yet, other than it will be on tribally-owned property.

Fox said the tribe is currently working with the Sonora Fire Department on a staffing agreement.

The new facility, equipment, and staffing at the facility will be paid for entirely by the Chicken Ranch Tribe, Fox said. She was not sure Thursday how many new jobs would be created at the new fire station. She said the tribe was not ready to disclose how much the tribe will invest in financing, building, equipping, and staffing the new fire station.

Sonora Fire Chief Aimee New deferred questions about her agency’s new partnership with the Chicken Ranch Tribe to City Administrator Mary Rose Rutikanga.

Rutikanga said the partnership with Chicken Ranch Tribe will come before the Sonora City Council on Monday. The city will negotiate a fee-for-service contract with the tribe for staffing at the new fire station.

The contract will be similar to an agreement between Tuolumne County and Cal Fire, Rutikanga said, with the city providing the fire personnel while the station and equipment will be owned by the Chicken Ranch Tribe.

“The City of Sonora is honored that the Chicken Ranch Tribe has chosen Sonora Fire to work in partnership on the ground level as they move forward with their new fire station,” Rutikanga said in a phone interview.

The ultimate goal of the new fire station is to provide much-needed emergency response resources for the tribal community, in addition to serving as a regional facility that will provide support to the surrounding areas, Fox said. 

Terms of the agreement with the city, including the region to be served and the full extent of response services provided, are still being developed, Fox said.

The Chicken Ranch Tribe is confident their plans and the partnership with the city will be a positive step forward to protect the tribe and local community, Fox said.

The Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me‐Wuk Indians of California received federal recognition as an autonomous Native American Tribe of California in 1985. In an effort to become economically viable and self‐sustaining, the tribe opened one of the first Native bingo halls in the state of California that same year.

The tribe has worked over recent decades to grow its bingo hall operation into its full‐fledged, 24-hour Chicken Ranch Casino business with more than 280 employees. Other local businesses owned and operated by the tribe include Mathiesen Memorial Health Clinic and the historic Jamestown Hotel.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.net or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.