Cutting the fire budget cuts service
I’m a firefighter for another department in the greater Sacramento area, and am proud to make El Dorado Hills my home. I’m hoping that the insight I can provide might help some of my voters make a good decision on Election Day.
Let me start by saying that the district that I work for is one that has been pointed to as a comparator agency to El Dorado Hills by Craig and Sherry Petersen. We staff a similar number of stations and run a similar number of calls as EDH. Except for the fact that we drive fire engines and wear blue uniforms, that’s where the similarity ends.
The first difference I’ll mention is in pay and benefits. EDH firefighters make more than me. They make a little more per hour than I do, but they have greater opportunities to earn overtime (more on that later). We both have employer-provided medical, as all fire departments in the area do. We both have a pension through CalPERS, but I pay a bit more out of pocket for it than do the EDH firefighters. Am I jealous? Of course I am. I’m not the only one. Turnover at my department is pretty high. We can usually only hire new guys with little experience and keep them for only a year or two before they take their experience to better paying departments, like EDH. I’ve been here almost three years, and am hoping to get picked up with another large Sacramento area department that compares with EDH. I’d love to work here at EDH, but they haven’t had any turnover (go figure).
The next difference is in staffing. We have two firefighters per engine; EDH staffs with three (industry standard). About half our guys are paramedics, all of EDH firefighters are medics. We don’t have a truck; EDH does. When one of our guys calls in sick, there is no overtime to fill the seat. Instead, we shut down the station (known as a brown out) and send the other guy to be a third firefighter on a different engine. This means that an area of our district has zero coverage. EDH fire has the ability to pay overtime to firefighters so that all areas of the district have 24/7 coverage at all times.
You don’t have to be a firefighter to understand that having more firefighters per engine makes a big difference in emergencies. You also can probably figure out how important it is to have an engine covering your home 24/7. This is one of the reasons I live in EDH.
You can cut the department budget by 25 percent or more, and still have a fire department. But you need to know that it won’t be the same service that we get now. It’ll look more like the department that I work for — and that would be a real shame.
I’m voting for Hidahl and Hartley.
El Dorado Hills