Experts Support Four-Person Staffing on Fire Engines/Trucks
Since 2004, the Long Beach Fire Department has lost 30 sworn
positions and is now below 1970's staffing levels when the department responded to
5000 emergency calls, compared to 2010's 48,525 calls. The Long Beach
Firefighters are especially concerned about a city proposal to cut staffing
onboard firefighting units from four to three, since this will cause completely
unnecessary life-threatening delays.
California law requires that there must be four firefighters
on scene before a unit can deploy personnel into
a fire. If a unit arrives with only three firefighters, it has to wait for
back-up wasting critical time since fire doubles in size every minute. Lost
time results in greater danger to those in the building, those fighting the
fire, the structure itself and surrounding neighbors.
Don't take our
word for it, please click on the following link to see what the experts say:
Long Beach Firefighters Bring Forward Pension Reform
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2011
Long Beach Firefighters in Final Stages of Good-Faith Negotiations with City
Long Beach, CA – After several rounds of discussions, the Long Beach Firefighters’ Association awaits the acceptance of its concession offers made in an effort to reach a final agreement with City Council. With the Council meeting in closed sessions next week, the LBFF expects a decision soon.
“Our proposal for helping close the city deficit has been real pension reform and deep compensation give-backs while trying to hold the line on further staffing cuts,” explains Rich Brandt, LBFF President. “Retaining firefighters is critical to protecting the public and to keeping firefighters safe.”
Since 2004, the Long Beach Fire Department has lost 30 sworn positions and is now at 1970’s staffing levels when the department responded to 5000 emergency calls, compared to 2010’s 48,525 calls. The Long Beach Firefighters are especially concerned about a city proposal to cut staffing onboard firefighting units from four to three, since this will cause completely unnecessary life-threatening delays.
California law requires that there must be four firefighters on scene before a unit can deploy personnel into a fire. If a unit arrives with only three firefighters, it has to wait for back-up wasting critical time since fire doubles in size every minute. Lost time results in greater danger to those in the building, those fighting the fire, the structure itself and surrounding neighbors.
“Though we have families of our own to support, we felt it important to take the cuts in compensation, rather than staffing, because personnel cuts will affect the safety of all our families,” adds Brandt. “We are optimistic City Council will share our belief that public safety must be our number one priority.”
Residents and business owners who’d like to have input on Long Beach’s future firefighting capabilities should call City Hall at 562-570-6801 or visit www.longbeach.gov.
The Long Beach Fire Department has a 114-year history. Well aware of this century-old tradition of community service, the Long Beach Firefighters’ Association represents over 400 firefighters protecting the seventh largest city in California (second largest city within Greater Los Angeles) with almost half a million residents covering 52.3 square miles, seven miles of beaches, 22 square miles of waterways, as well as safeguarding one of the world’s busiest seaports, a growing airport and five million visitors.
Out of 478 California cities with available data, Long Beach achieved the highest surplus of revenues over operating expenditures (i.e. NOI) from 2000 to 2008 at $1.2 billion. San Francisco realized the highest deficit (negative NOI) of nearly -$2.8 billion. So why is the City closing fire engines down?
SAN DIEGO - Friday marks the end of the city's widely denounced emergency-services "brownout" program, which idled up to eight fire engines a day over the last 17 months as a means of propping up San Diego's unsteady municipal finances.
The cost-cutting plan affected 13 of the city's 47 fire stations for a month at a time on a rotating basis, leaving some of them without enough personnel to provide first-responder water-pumping capabilities. Last month, the City Council scrapped the much-maligned program on a 7-1 vote, while approving a 2011-12 budget.
The fire-service reduction concept, aimed at saving the city about $11.5 million in overtime expenditures, was part of a package of municipal cutbacks Mayor Jerry Sanders floated in 2009 in a bid to close a $179 million budget shortfall. The council reluctantly approved the proposals in December of that year, and the brownouts went into effect two months later.
From the start, San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar and other city officials did not hide their belief that the plan compromised public safety. Mainar described the brownouts as a particularly acute potential problem for neighborhoods in Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, Rancho Penasquitos and University City. He said the cuts also led to a reduction in fire inspections and less time for firefighter training.
While the program was in effect, at least two emergencies in the city resulted in fatalities possibly linked to response-time delays:
-- Last summer, a toddler choked to death on a gumball in a Mira Mesa neighborhood affected by the cutbacks, prompting the fire chief to say that the prevailing brownout "had a negative impact on our ability to provide service."
Though the 2-year-old boy was in a home a block from a fire station when he was stricken on the evening of July 20, an engine had to be sent from the South Bay, and it arrived 9 1/2 minutes after the family's 911 call. The child was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Four months earlier, a 78-year-old man died when a fire tore through his apartment in a browned-out Golden Hill-area neighborhood. Crews from a fire station a quarter-mile to the east arrived less than 30 seconds after receiving an emergency call reporting the blaze on the morning of March 19, 2010, but they were aboard a truck with no water-dispensing capability. A fire engine from a Barrio Logan station arrived about four minutes later.
While dousing the flames, crews found the resident's body near a bathroom inside the smoke-filled residence in the 2200 block of Broadway. Fire department spokesman Maurice Luque told reporters it was uncertain if the elderly man might have been saved by a quicker response."It's one of those things that you can debate," he said.
Even before the cutbacks went into effect, nearly two dozen firehouses in San Diego fell short of a nationally accepted standard for response times, according to Councilwoman Marti Emerald.
The brownouts involved all the "double house" stations in the city -- those that normally have trucks and engines at their disposal. "Single houses," which only have engines, were not subject to the rotating reductions.
Taking as many as eight engines out of service per day allowed the firefighters who would normally operate them fill in for other crew members absent from duty for various reasons, thus reducing overtime expenses.
Staffing Hindered Efforts in Fatal California Fire
San Bernardino County Sun (California)
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Firefighters and a woman who nearly lost her son in a house fire last week say significant damage could have been prevented if the first crew had been allowed go inside immediately and douse the flames.
Recent budget cuts have reduced nine of the city's 12 fire stations to three-man crews, which means firefighters must wait for a second engine before they can set foot inside a burning structure.
Although the first engine pulled up to the burning North Cold Mountain Drive home at 9:23 a.m. Friday, dispatch tapes show a backup engine didn't arrive for another nine minutes.
Firefighters can be heard three times asking where the second engine is or saying that they are ready to enter the building but have to wait for backup.
San Bernardino City Fire Chief Mike Conrad said backup actually arrived within six to seven minutes but, "in the excitement," firefighters forgot to hit a button telling dispatch they had arrived.
The next two engines on scene both responded from more than 5 miles away.
That response time is "not as good as we'd like, but we have to deal with what we've got," Conrad said Tuesday, adding that the first responders "did an absolute excellent job with three-person staffing."
Homeowner Danielle Aguilar said she is frustrated that firefighters stood by watching her house burn and is going to retain an attorney.
"Nine minutes is a very long time. Had they gotten here and went in, they could have saved more of my house. It is 95 percent gone," Aguilar said. "I think that's the city's fault."
She said she was shocked when firefighters readied their hoses but remained in front of her two-story house.
Fire engineer Dave Jacobo, who was one of the first responders, said his crew had to wait "too long" for a second engine and the fire grew significantly in that time.
"I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed that we had to sit and wait, that we couldn't do what we are paid to do," Jacobo said.
Firefighters stood outside the open garage and aimed their hoses into the kitchen, where the fire started. Once backup crews were on scene, they went inside and quickly knocked down the blaze.
That night, fire union president Scott Moss gave the family of five a $250 Wal-Mart gift card on behalf of the firefighters.
He said repeatedly asking where backup crews are is "a rare instance but it (could) be more common now" because of the drop to three-man crews.
Councilman Chas Kelley and Councilwoman Wendy McCammack, who have both said they support reinstating four-man crews, toured the Aguilars' house with City Attorney James F. Penman after the fire.
"The exact concerns I had occurred this morning (Friday)," Kelley said. "I believe it could have been prevented, the damage could have been limited. But this family is without now."