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San Miguel Fire To Outsource Fire Protection

Evening Edition

Gary Croucher, Interim San Miguel Fire Chief, and Tom Porter, CAL FIRE Chief, talk to KPBS about the San Miguel Consolidated Fire District.

Aired 5/15/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests: Gary Croucher, Interim San Miguel Fire Chief

Tom Porter, CAL FIRE Chief


Map of the San Miguel Fire District.
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Above: Map of the San Miguel Fire District.

The budget deficit carried by the East County's San Miguel Consolidated Fire District keeps growing in spite of budget cuts and will continue in this negative pattern for the foreseeable future.

The district has decided to deal with this issue by outsourcing its job. The district's board has accepted a proposal from CAL FIRE, the state fire protection agency, to take over the district's job. When negotiations are complete, the 92 employees of San Miguel Fire will become state employees.

Many in communities within the 47 square miles of San Miguel's service area are worried about the quality of service they will receive under this arrangement, especially now, when brush fire season is imminent. San Miguel and CAL FIRE officials are anxious to allay these fears. They believe service will actually improve.

One of the causes for the ongoing deficits is a 20% drop in property tax revenues since the recession began. The district also pays lifetime health and dental benefits for its firefighters and their families.

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Avatar for user 'williamkiel'

williamkiel | September 30, 2012 at 4:14 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

On the September 25th Board meeting OUR San Miguel Fire Board voted UNANIMOUSLY 7-0 with all members voting YES to enter into a 5-1/2 year $68 MILLION DOLLAR contract with Cal-Fire.

Not only does this mean that our community loses the ability to hire or fire the Fire Chief, regardless of his performance but our Fire Fighters will be forced to transition from a 56 hour work week to a 72 hour work week. Not only do these long hours with a very real possibility of our firefighters getting no sleep for up to three consecutive days pose a serious risk to their safety it also poses a risk to our safety. Consider that same firefighter having to make life and death decisions regarding the treatment of say, a serious automobile accident victim. Would you like to have your emergency care provider administrating first aid to you while having had little or no sleep for the last three days? This really could happen to YOU....

Even with this abysmal financial failure, the Board did not volunteer to give up their free dental insurance paid for by us. They also did not volunteer to give up their free cell phone data plan paid for by; you guessed it; we the taxpaying community. THEY decided to keep their perks; they must really believe they're intitled to them.

I spoke with San Miguel Fire Department management and asked him, “Did you run a scenario where we keep control of the Department and just transition to a longer work week and see if that make enough of a difference with the budget to work. Unfortunately that answer was no, he did no such analysis. I asked the Board if they directed anyone on staff to run a longer workweek scenario to see if that would help save our Department, not one Board member answered that they pursued that course action.

Ironically that's exactly what Cal-Fire is doing to save the money and try to get us into the black. Why didn't our Board think of this?

We currently employ a Public Information Officer. He is paid including his benefits about $140,000/year. He’s been working for this Department over 5 years. Just one more thing, he gets health insurance for life after just five years, our Board approved that. His total cost to the people he works for during those five years, is around $700,000. I’m not suggesting his work isn’t excellent, or the services he provides to our community aren’t valuable, but in these hard times of dramatically reduced revenue‘s, we simply couldn’t afford him. $700,000 dollars is a lot of money, money that we now desperately need.

The Board of Directors also saw fit to hire Chief Gio, our last Fire Chief. He supervised a staff of about 84 people. The Governor of California, Gerry Brown, supervises a staff of over 250,000 people, over a quarter of a million people. Who would you guess made the higher salary? If you guessed Chief Gio made the higher salary you would be CORRECT. This Board hired him, negotiated his salary and paid him for over five years.

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