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Victorville to contract with county fire

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kd6ecz

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Seems like an awfully drastic move to save $38,000 a year.

Victorville to contract with county fire
BROOKE EDWARDS Staff Writer
May 14, 2008 - 8:44AM
VICTORVILLE — The Victorville Fire Department will be disbanded July 1 as the city moves to a contract with San Bernardino County for fire services.

The decision came from a heated split vote by the Victorville City Council during a special meeting Tuesday night.

Following lengthy presentations by the Paramedic Committee, county fire and the city’s economic department, the bottom line showed that contracting with the county would save the city roughly $38,000 a year. The decision would also put paramedics on all fire engines as soon as the county takes over, as opposed to a phase-in over several years as recommended by the Victorville Fire Department.

Councilman Rudy Cabriales, Councilwoman JoAnn Almond and Councilman Mike Rothschild said they were all leaning toward implementing a three-man paramedic crew through the local fire department.

Rothschild said he was torn, but that it was too hard for him to separate the human element and the effect the change would have on local firefighters, many of whom had been students in his classroom over the years.

Councilman Bob Hunter and Mayor Terry Caldwell both spoke about the difficulty of the decision, but said they felt the most important issue was to get paramedics on engines immediately.

“I want paramedics on our fire trucks and I want them in as soon as possible,” Hunter said.

Caldwell said that the phase-in recommended by local firefighters would not meet the urgency he feels is necessary.

“Everyone has been saying to us, the decision makers, ‘I want paramedics and I want them now.’”

Caldwell then made a motion to go with county fire, seconded by Hunter.

After the motion was on the table and the council was preparing to vote, in what looked to be a 2-3 vote against going with county fire, Rothschild spoke up again.

“Mayor Caldwell has moved me to the other side of the argument,” he said.

Almond appeared shocked, along with most members of the audience. She again spoke up, defending the plan to stay with local fire.
The council then quickly voted, with a 3-2 vote in favor of contracting with the county.

Several firefighters immediately stormed out of City Hall. One man walked up and shook hands with Almond and Cabriales, shaking his head at the other councilmembers. Other audience members — most local firefighters — filtered out slowly, still appearing a bit shocked by the vote.

Outside, firefighters discussed the possibility of facing salary cuts, losing banked sick and vacation days, changing retirement plans and being forced to move to another city. One asked the Apple Valley Fire Chief, who was in attendance, if he had any openings in his department.

“I was really surprised,” Almond later said of the vote. “I thought for sure that we would stand by our firefighters and give them the opportunity to become paramedics. I just hope they didn’t make a mistake.”

Former Victorville fire chief Cabriales said he has no doubts about the level of service the county will provide, but that he disagrees with the loss of local control and impact the decision will have on local firefighters.

“The Victorville Fire Department has been around officially for over 80 years,” he said. “I know Victorville could provide the paramedic service itself.”

Both Almond and Cabriales said they plan to investigate the financial information presented by city staff, after hearing reports that both the retirement package and included raises may have inflated the numbers.

Brooke Edwards may be reached at 955-5358 or at bedwards@vvdailypress.com.

The Daily Press is looking for comments from those affected by Tuesday night’s Victorville City Council decision to replace city fire with a county contract. If you have information or an opinion you would like to share for an upcoming article, please call Brooke Edwards at 955-5358 or email her at bedwards@vvdailypress.com.
Edit:
There's an interesting discussion about this topic here:
Topic: VV Fire Dept to contract with County FD!
 
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karldotcom

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I spent last night reading up on all this. There is an article from March stating the fire department was hit with some OSHA violations during inspections of two stations, and there was a desire by the City of Victorville to have paramedics on every engine, which the current dept said would take 2 years, while the county said it would start July 1.

There was a question as to what would happen to DesertComm.
 

kd6ecz

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Is Desert Comm run by the City of Victorville? Who do they dispatch still? I don't listen to radio traffic up there on a regular basis but I do have friends in and around the Victor Valley area so I do monitor from time to time.
 

commstar

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This is a great way to bust up a 'strong' or inflexible union. Disband, then reform in several years after all the former employees' retreat rights have expired.
 

disp10

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kd6ecz said:
Is Desert Comm run by the City of Victorville? Who do they dispatch still? I don't listen to radio traffic up there on a regular basis but I do have friends in and around the Victor Valley area so I do monitor from time to time.
Currently they dispatch Victorville, Apple Valley, Barstow, Big Bear City, Big Bear Lake, Yermo, Newberry Springs. They used to dispatch Adelanto and Hesperia, but both those have gone to county fire contracts over the years.
Once Victorville leaves, either the other remaining agencies will be forced to pony up more money to keep Desert Com going, or Desert Com will have to reduce financial expenditures somehow. Reduced staffing comes to mind, but I am not sure how many dispatchers they have on shift currently. Can't go much below 2 and still provide an acceptable level of service in my opinion.
 

SAR923

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Why is this such a big deal? LA County fire has had contracts with a large number of cities for many years. Fire department consolidation has been going on for a long time and the increasing use of paramedics on trucks is one reason. Competent county fire departments can provide much better service than most smaller city departments. I lived in Baldwin Park, Pomona, and Diamond Bar. LA County Fire did a much better job of servicing BP and Diamond Bar than did the perpetually cash strapped Pomona FD.
 

karldotcom

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Well, I think change is difficult for some people...especially if they are older, etc. One day you could be working in your Victorville Fire House, and then next get assigned to Trona.
 

E5911

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Victorville Contract

Will the Victorville ff be "absorbed , or laid off?

I believe if I am not mistaken Victorvile made more than county fire will pay.

In terms of pay &benifits here is some perspective :

EVERY pay day my employer pays alot more than me in retirement contributions, health insurance etc. a 40k FF is costing the taxpayer alot more like 50 or 60k depending. Now factor in the real cost of throwing on a paramedic program, materials, supplies, Continuing ed, overtime, Overhead.

I do not know or pretend to know what all the ins and outs are, but the figures projected are going to be different than advertised.

As far as Desert Com, Phoenix FD askes for 100k/yr just for dispatching.
I thought Desert com was owned by a private ambulance outfit.
 

Eng74

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E5911 said:
Will the Victorville ff be "absorbed , or laid off?

I believe if I am not mistaken Victorvile made more than county fire will pay.

In terms of pay &benifits here is some perspective :

EVERY pay day my employer pays alot more than me in retirement contributions, health insurance etc. a 40k FF is costing the taxpayer alot more like 50 or 60k depending. Now factor in the real cost of throwing on a paramedic program, materials, supplies, Continuing ed, overtime, Overhead.

I do not know or pretend to know what all the ins and outs are, but the figures projected are going to be different than advertised.

As far as Desert Com, Phoenix FD askes for 100k/yr just for dispatching.
I thought Desert com was owned by a private ambulance outfit.
I have to agree with you. If the rank and file of the department were against it, going county will hurt the firefighter. The only time's I hear a department not want to be absorbed means the guys are getting the shaft. The guys in La Habra were happy to taken in by L.A. County they got a better retirement and more pay. I bet that Victorville will save more than $38,000. It all has to do with who is giving the numbers. I do not think SBCoFD could take over four stations without getting the Victorville guys. The other bad part for the Victorville guys is they will get sent out to who knows where in the county.
 

disp10

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karldotcom said:
Well, I think change is difficult for some people...especially if they are older, etc. One day you could be working in your Victorville Fire House, and then next get assigned to Trona.
Actually that would not be possible for the full-time paid firefighters coming over from Victorville. Trona is PCF only. No full-time paid staff. But I can think of some other not-so-choice locations they could get assigned to.
 

Duster

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karldotcom said:
Well, I think change is difficult for some people...especially if they are older, etc. One day you could be working in your Victorville Fire House, and then next get assigned to Trona.
Been there, done that... I worked Trona for over three years for the county sheriff and it's not that bad... OK, yeah, it really IS that bad!!!!! :lol:

However, the only paid person in Trona for county fire is a partially-compensated district chief (I think he gets paid for 10 or 20 hours per week, or something like that). Everyone else is paid-call. Of course, they could end up in a garden spot like...uh...Helendale...Yucca Valley...Joshua Tree...Wonder Valley!!!!
 

Eng74

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duster said:
Been there, done that... I worked Trona for over three years for the county sheriff and it's not that bad... OK, yeah, it really IS that bad!!!!! :lol:

However, the only paid person in Trona for county fire is a partially-compensated district chief (I think he gets paid for 10 or 20 hours per week, or something like that). Everyone else is paid-call. Of course, they could end up in a garden spot like...uh...Helendale...Yucca Valley...Joshua Tree...Wonder Valley!!!!
I think they have a 5 day a week 9 to 5 captain now. I do see how SBCoFD can be cheap for Victorville. Whenever there is a call in Trona or Kramer Junction they are calling for an engine from Kern County. They don't want to have any kind of contract to provide service and are getting to point of mutual aide abuse.
 

Duster

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Eng74 said:
I think they have a 5 day a week 9 to 5 captain now. I do see how SBCoFD can be cheap for Victorville. Whenever there is a call in Trona or Kramer Junction they are calling for an engine from Kern County. They don't want to have any kind of contract to provide service and are getting to point of mutual aide abuse.
I was in Trona from 1988-1990 with Kerr-McGee (paid) and SBCoFD (PCF), went to SBSD in 1990 and spent three more years there as resident deputy after the academy. When I was there, SBCoFD had you guys covering Windy Acres (contract or gentlemen's agreement, I don't know), but Red Mountain had a volunteer company (E54) and was back-filled by your Randsburg engine. Is it still that way, or do you have to roll from Ridgecrest? Does SBCo still have a BLS ambulance out there, or has Liberty taken it over?

PS: Sorry for the thread hijack...it just sort of evolved that way...:eek:
 

Eng74

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duster said:
I was in Trona from 1988-1990 with Kerr-McGee (paid) and SBCoFD (PCF), went to SBSD in 1990 and spent three more years there as resident deputy after the academy. When I was there, SBCoFD had you guys covering Windy Acres (contract or gentlemen's agreement, I don't know), but Red Mountain had a volunteer company (E54) and was back-filled by your Randsburg engine. Is it still that way, or do you have to roll from Ridgecrest? Does SBCo still have a BLS ambulance out there, or has Liberty taken it over?

PS: Sorry for the thread hijack...it just sort of evolved that way...:eek:
127's still has their BLS ambulance with Liberty (almost Hall's) doing the ALS back up. The Red Mountain company has been gone for a awhile. Red Mountain is within 5 miles of the county line so 75 will get sent without it going up the chain. Liberty just put a unit finaly in Inyokern (Rescue 3) sometimes it is ALS sometimes it is BLS. The contract for Windy Acres is still in use. The last fire we had out there was over 6 years atleast.
 

kd6ecz

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Here's another article on the subject:

Some answers for Victorville firefighters
BROOKE EDWARDS Staff Writer
May 20, 2008 - 3:17PM

VICTORVILLE — Some concerns were put to rest while others remain unanswered following a cordial meeting between San Bernardino County officials and Victorville firefighters.

“This is not a hostile takeover,” county Fire Chief Pat Dennen said Monday night, at the High Desert Church chapel packed with firefighters and their families.

The meeting took place to address the many questions that arose following last week’s surprise split vote by the Victorville City Council to disband the fire department and contract with the county for fire services.

Everyone is going to have a job, county officials said, they just have to figure out where. A memo has gone out to other county firefighters asking if they would like to request a transfer to the Victorville station, though county said the City Council is pushing to keep as many “local boys” in Victorville as possible.

Councilwoman JoAnn Almond said the council can make suggestions, but she is unclear how much impact those suggestions will have on the final contract.

“We have a wonderful contract with the sheriff,” she said, “but we have no say in which lieutenant stays, which captain goes...”

During last week’s council meeting, Dennen said the county belief is that it’s healthy to move out of one’s home station for a time, learn the county system and then bid back into the home station if desired.

The county clarified that they will also take control of the fire program at Southern California Logistics Airport, which was unclear during the council meeting.

The local union will be folded into the county’s existing Local 935.

“It’s a couple of families joining,” said Bret Henry, president of 935.

“I’ve made a commitment to work with county fire to help make the transition as smooth as possible,” said Marty Brown, president of the Victorville Professional Firefighters Union. Brown said he truly believes the Victorville firefighters will look back in five years and realize that this change was the right decision.

A document from the City of Victorville shows salaries between the current fire department and the county are comparable, with employees standing to lose $302 at the entry-level Captain position and gaining up to $1,400 per month as a County Division Chief.

Retirement packages should also transfer smoothly, the county assured firefighters, since there is a reciprocity agreement between the two managing companies. Officials said the employees will receive two separate checks when they retire, but the amount will be roughly equal to what they would’ve received had they stayed with one department.

The county is still working with the city to finalize details of how existing vacation and sick days will be honored. Though it’s illegal to transfer these days to another employer, Dennen said they are looking into whether it’s possible to have the city cash out the days and allow employees to immediately buy them back.

Another issue still under consideration is the county’s typical six-month probation period for new employees. Dennen said the City Council asked for no probation. The county is looking at possible compromises, including having probation only for employees that were with Victorville for two years or less.

Most of these explanations were met with nods of approval and understanding from local firefighters, though none would comment to the press.

Victorville firefighters will now start the process of filling out new applications and getting new physicals and background checks. They will have an orientation soon, with workshops on new health insurance and retirement plans and training on equipment that differs between the two fire systems.

One issue not addressed Monday night is what will happen to the Desert Communication dispatch service. Last week the county said there is a possibility of taking over the local dispatch to serve the High Desert areas, and allow their current dispatch to serve areas down the Cajon Pass.

Dennen said the county hopes to have the final contract before the City Council for a vote by mid-June.
 

WX5JCH

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What good is a paramedic on a fire truck? That's funny. Paramedics work out of ambulances not fire trucks. What idiots. Let's see, I'm dying of a heart attack and a engine pulls up? I'd have a stroke on top of the heart attack. Sounds like they need a refresher class for the 1st grade... I've been a paramedic since 1971 and I've never ridden in a fire truck, except in a parade once.

Jim
 

Kingscup

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skywatch said:
I've been a paramedic since 1971 and I've never ridden in a fire truck, except in a parade once.
You have never ridden on a fire truck but you are a "Firefighter Instructor"?
 

Kirk

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skywatch said:
Paramedics work out of ambulances not fire trucks.
It's usually best not to assume that the way they do EMS in your neck of the woods is the same way it's done in every neck of the woods. Besides, haven't you ever seen Emergency?

http://www.hulu.com/emergency
 

jrholm

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skywatch said:
What good is a paramedic on a fire truck? That's funny. Paramedics work out of ambulances not fire trucks. What idiots. Let's see, I'm dying of a heart attack and a engine pulls up? I'd have a stroke on top of the heart attack. Sounds like they need a refresher class for the 1st grade... I've been a paramedic since 1971 and I've never ridden in a fire truck, except in a parade once.

Jim

Fire trucks are pretty neat, they can carry fire fighting equipment and medical rescue gear. If you put a paramedic on each one you get a paramedic on scene every time and don't have to wait for a rescue rig. I would say that is very beneficial. It is very common to see a paramedic on a fire truck if that particular station does not have a rescue rig/squad assigned Most ambulances out this way run with EMT's if it turns into an ALS run the paramedic (who showed up first anyways because he was on the fire truck) goes with them to the hospital.


Never shoot something down if you haven't thought of all the possibilities. Just because something is the way you have always done it dosen't mean there aren't other ways.
 

trooperdude

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Urban fire departments have an average response time to medical calls < 5 minutes.

Urban Ambulances have an average response time to medical calls >8 minutes.
In San Francisco it's >10 minutes as an example.

Paramedics on ambulances can only do paramedic work. No firefighting gear.

Paramedics on fire engines are trained primarily as firefighters first, with paramedic training as an adjunct. You get a better return on your training investment.

Do the math.

Paramedics on fire engines makes both economic sense to the city, as well as life-saving time sense to the potential patient.
 
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