By Alex Cordero
Governor Newsom announced that the State of California will be hiring hundreds of new firefighters to prepare for this year’s fire season and it could impact fire departments throughout the state, including the Pasadena Fire Department, in other ways besides allocating additional staff.
“The governor’s budget would not provide additional staff specifically, but it could provide additional resources we could use when we are not utilizing them on the State’s behalf, such as a fire engine. PFD has submitted to receive a Type VI fire engine from the State which would be used locally or regionally when not ordered to be used by the State elsewhere. The governor’s budget also provides reimbursement to the City of Pasadena when our firefighters staff State resources or respond to incidents by request of the State,”
Pasadena Fire Chief Bertral Washington shared with us.
Washington has been appointed to serve as the Operational Area Coordinator for Area C of the California Office of Emergency Services (OES) Fire & Rescue Region I. Area C covers several cities in the San Gabriel Valley and as area C Coordinator Washington receives information from the State’s OES such as the governor’s budget and plans for fire services.
“PFD employs 161 sworn firefighters spanning the rank of firefighter to fire chief. Although there has not been an increase in positions, we hire additional firefighters on overtime to increase our daily staffing during red flag conditions as well as other high risk time periods.”
Fire Chief Washington continued, “Firefighters often work more during peak fire season. This is because more overtime is required to backfill staffing positions when fire crews are sent from local fire departments to fight fires throughout the State. Firefighters are well trained and prepared to respond to these incidents which can last up to 14 days or 21 days with approval of the fire chief. No matter how prepared they are, it impacts their loved ones just as much or more than each individual firefighter. These impacts are becoming more significant given the increased fire activity throughout the State in recent years.”
There have been reports of fire departments experiencing delays throughout the state when requesting fire engines and manpower to prepare for fire season but according to Fire Chief Washington, the biggest delay our local firefighters experience are the State’s reimbursement for fire services that meet federal funding.
“The most significant delays have been with reimbursements. As mentioned earlier, we send firefighters to incidents throughout the State upon request. In cases where the incident meets thresholds to be paid for by the federal government, cities are reimbursed by the State, after the State is reimbursed by the federal government. Some of the incidents meeting federal funding thresholds have been slow. Last month, the State and DOI came to an agreement on how the reimbursements can get back on track. This was great news.”
Another way the budget is impacting fire departments is in the area of firefighting aircraft resources. “The best contacts for aircraft would be LA County FD or Orange County Fire Authority. We are fortunate to have them as partners as they share their resources throughout the region. They have aircraft and contracts beyond those with the federal government. We would access their resources before federal resources,” stated Washington.
As a community we all know preventing wildfires is everyone’s responsibility. And when I asked Pasadena Fire Chief Washington, how can we continue to support our local Fire Department he answered, “Pasadena is a very special community. We would not have the success we have had without the strong public safety partnership PFD has with our residents, local businesses and government officials. Our City Council established a safe ordinance for vegetation management to enhance the public’s safety from wildfires. Our residents complied with that ordinance at a rate over 99% after our initial inspection. We anticipate compliance of 100% soon which is a huge success. The community can help improve safety during the peak fire season by ensuring they continue with effective vegetation management, report properties of concern, establish a family plan of action for immediate evacuation if needed, and they encourage their neighbors to do the same. More information for “Ready, Set, Go” is available on our website.”