Firefighters balk at medic-only staff changes

The city proposed training medics for single duty and reducing the number of firefighters on engines

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento Fire Department’s union is refusing to negotiate staffing changes that would save the city $6 million a year. 

Officials have suggested training paramedics for single duty to handle only medical emergencies, but not firefighting. The shift would reduce the number of hours worked by paramedics and would create an entry level position to help diversify the department. 

However, City Budget Manager Dawn Holm said any changes must first be negotiated with the fire department’s union, Sacramento Area Firefighters Local 522. 

Union spokesman Roberto Padilla said firefighter-paramedics are essential to providing the “best service possible” to the community. 

Padilla rejected the possibility of reducing engine teams from four firefighters to three, although it would save the city $2.4 million, the News Review reported. 

While more suburban cities have three firefighters per engine, Padilla noted that because Sacramento is a metropolitan area, four per team is needed. 

The National Fire Prevention Association recommends four firefighters per engine for cities with a population of 400,00 or more. Sacramento’s population is roughly 485,000. 

The Sacramento Fire Department responded to over 83,000 calls in 2015, 80 percent of which were EMS runs. 

The department operates its own fleet of ambulances, which Holm said could be outsourced to private ambulance agencies to reduce costs. 

Councilman Jeff Harris wrote in a statement that the union is against the proposals because, “a dual-role system means more very highly paid dual-role medic jobs. While that may be good for the union, it absolutely impedes our effort to create long-term functional stability of our General Fund.”

The union’s contract is up for negotiation in 2018.

“If we adopt dual-role medic for the next two ambulances, there will be no incentive for the union to come to the table until their next contract negotiation in 2018,” said Harris. 

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