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DeMaio, Fire Chief Spar Over EMT Pay


Aired 10/14/10

A San Diego city councilman says the fire department is wasting millions of dollars a year. Now the fire chief is lashing back.

— A San Diego city councilman says the fire department is wasting millions of dollars a year. Now the fire chief is lashing back.

San Diego Fire and Rescue Department Truck 10 sits in a fire station garage.
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Above: San Diego Fire and Rescue Department Truck 10 sits in a fire station garage.

Councilman Carl DeMaio is calling on the San Diego Fire Department to cut $5.4 million from its personnel budget. The money is distributed among firefighters who are certified Emergency Medical Technicians. But all firefighters must be EMT certified. DeMaio said firefighters shouldn’t get paid what he calls a bonus for a basic job qualification.

"This would be like opening up the newspaper or going on Craig’s List for a help-wanted ad," he said. "And it says law firm seeks lawyer, attractive compensation package And if you have a law degree, a bonus is provided!"

DeMaio said the money should be eliminated when it comes up for renewal this summer. He said in the meantime the money should go toward restoring fire services that have been cut.

But Fire Chief Javier Mainar strongly disagrees with DeMaio’s characterization of the money. He said it was negotiated with the firefighters’ union in the 80s when EMT services were added to firefighter duties. He said it's part of their basic pay even though it’s a separate budget line item. He said San Diego firefighters are already among some of the lowest paid in the country. And Mainar said DeMaio knows all of that.

"Quite frankly much of what he comes up regarding my department is inaccurate. And he’s finally crossed the line from inaccurate to the point where’s he defaming a lot of us by what he’s saying," he said. "If he wants to have an honest conversation he knows where my office is."

Mainar has outlined $7 million in cuts his department may have to make if voters reject a proposed sales tax increase on the ballot this November. DeMaio said cutting what he calls the EMT bonus would cover 75 percent of that.

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Avatar for user 'Dandy'

Dandy | October 13, 2010 at 7:06 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

I agree with DeMaio. The EMT certification is a bare minimum requirement, 8 weeks at a course costing $1000. Now if they are Paramedics and respond on a Paramedic unit, then pay them. But EMTs are 10.00 per hour, firefighters get $45 per hour, no need to spiff them for life because they got a certificate.

The real issue is that SDMSE (the red 911 ambulances) is killing us by not having a Paramedic respond to 911 calls. Instead becasue of a swetheart city contract they can rely on a hook and ladder to show up for every heart attack because the fire rig has a paramedic on board!!!! Yikes!

Make SDMSE show up with Paramedics on every call and stop rolling our million dollar hook and ladder rigs with 3 firefighters on board to every emergency. That will save millions year after year.

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Avatar for user 'SDctyzn'

SDctyzn | October 13, 2010 at 7:39 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Get your facts straight before you make these accusations. SDMSE do respond with medics, but our city holds a high standard of having two medics on a 9-1-1 call. If you or a loved one has a heart attack, wouldn't you want a crew constantly delivering chest compressions and ventilations (that requires two people, usually the EMT's), some one to administer drugs and talk to the nurse on the radio (so you will have the best possible care at the hospital with a team there ready to work), and oh yeah someone to drive? That makes for four people total rolling to the hospital. This is impossible with just the ambulance, which carries two. Not to say that all 9-1-1 calls warrant an engine and an ambulance, but don't you think when you pick up the phone to dial 9-1-1, you would want SOME ONE to show up to your emergency in a timely manner. There are less than 20 9-1-1 ambulances in the city working SDMSE any given day. At any given time, half of those could be at the hospitals delivering their patients, leaving areas of the city uncovered by transporting ambulances. SDFD's system allows engines and trucks to respond to calls, so that you do not have to wait as when those units are tied up. When the call warrants, they are released from the seen as soon as possible by the transporting ambulance. But with the city growing even larger and the brown-outs cutting the fire sides ability to respond, even the fire engines are having a hard time keeping up.

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Avatar for user 'eddiemunster'

eddiemunster | October 13, 2010 at 8:12 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

The Facts:

San Diego firefighters are the LOWEST paid of the 10 largest cities in the state.

San Diego firefighters are paid less than firefighters in Fresno. What is the difference between the cost of living in Fresno compared to San Diego.

San Diego firefighters pay more into their pension than ANY other municipality, 15-17% of their pay.

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Avatar for user 'timcda'

timcda | October 14, 2010 at 8:25 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

As Mr. DiMaio knows, EMT pay is listed as a separate line item in the budget but is part of the firefighters negotiated *base* pay - it is not a bonus. This is due to the fact that EMT certifications must be renewed by every firefighter, every year. Having a separate line item for EMT pay allows the department to track and ensure that all SDFD are certifed EMTs 24/7 and/or withhold EMT pay until certifications are current.

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Avatar for user 'Katie Orr'

Katie Orr | October 14, 2010 at 10:33 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for the comments, everyone. For some more context here's a link to our story on the fire department's role in responding to medical calls:

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Avatar for user 'FormerCHIEF_SDAD'

FormerCHIEF_SDAD | October 18, 2010 at 8:58 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

We Fire Agencies NEED to GET-OUT of EMS!!! (There, I said it!!) For years, we didn't get involved in EMS, in fact San Diego's POLICE use to run the ambulance here.

Our City is paying MILLIONS for a service, that is provided without a tax payer subsidy, in every corner of the country without taxpayer money.

We need to get the County of San Diego to change the rules that say that you have to have TWO paramedics on an ambulance, that every paramedic provider (private or public) in the county must have a service area (contracted) to provide paramedic services.

The Fire Chiefs see EMS as a way to get more money and more equipment.

1. Fires are approximately 10-20% of the total emergency responses

2. 80-85% of our responses are EMS now.

**BUT, here is the 600 lb gorilla in the room**

Twenty years ago, there were 6 or 7 Private Ambulance companies in our county. Today, there are 19 !!!

As tax payers, we need to control of the mindless spending, and the "interest groups" like the doctors, nurses and Fire Department Unions who have a stake in keeping everything at "status quo."

People are loosing their lives in fires. They are loosing their lives because those in the fire service are furthering agendas, instead of protecting the public.

And, to the doctors and nurses out there who don't want to hear this... too bad!

People, we need to tell the county supervisors to stop paying attention to these political "tap dancers", and change the laws so that the private services can pick up the slack and get into the game. I know if given a chance, they'd do it and gladly provide the services without a subsidy!

San Diego is a wonderful place. I love it here. And while I was one of you in a former life, I never agreed with your agendas. You are not a group of "Robin Hood" type people. You are not giving anything back to the poor... you are all only looking out for your own self interests.

Since the time a few months ago, when the African-American gentleman iodine in that fire in San Diego, I have heard a lot of union talk about the "brown-outs" that are occurring in SDFD. But, I would like to ASK this question to the City Council, and the Fire Department Management and Unions;

Would this gentleman have died, needlessly in a fire, if a private paramedic services in San Diego (provided by any one of the 19 other under utilized private ambulance providers in the county) had been handling our EMS, and were using the Multi-million dollar subsidy we pay "San Diego Medical Services Enterprises" (who are you boys fooling? RURAL METRO by any other name...), to fund our fire department and staffed that fire engine?

We can't have it both ways folks... Make the County Supervisors and City Council do the right thing, or make them ALL WALK!!!

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