Palo Alto Firefighters Speak Out

By Tony Spitaleri, retired fire captain and president of Palo Alto Professional Firefighters, Local 1319

To get the facts out, it has been no secret that members of the city council want to reduce the numbers of firefighters on duty each day. Currently, there are 29 firefighters on duty each day.

Each fire engine has three firefighters on it, in most cases there is a cross trained paramedic/firefighter as one of the three.

If the city is allowed to reduce the number of firefighters each day, that action would cause a fire station to close and it would cause increased respond times to 911 calls.

I have attached a report the city has paid $47,000 for and is ignoring the report. The city also commissioned a Standard of Coverage study which they stopped after learning that report was not going to recommend reducing firefighters.

To-date the city has spent $66,000 on reports and will be spending another $60,000 a new report concerning firefighter staffing.

We gave them a free report commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Commence that was conducted by the National Standard Institute of Technology.

The report shows what number of firefighters was a safe number to protect a community and the firefighters. They studied 2, 3, 4, and 5 firefighters performance on a fire engine, they conclude in a land mark decision that 4 firefighters on a fire engine is best staffing level. We only have three and are not asking for more, but we surely can not do with less.

We do not know why the city council wants to place the citizens and their children in danger.

We felt that since the city manger and council are disregarding reports on staffing, the citizens should have a say when it come to their safety. The fire fighters are out collecting signatures to place an issue before the citizens in November that will allow them to vote on any reducing of firefighters or closing stations.

The Council has stated that the effort by the firefighters is not good government, we say it’s not good government when the council ignores reports they have spent thousands of dollars on and are going spend thousands more.

Our petition has nothing to do with salaries or benefits, there is no language in the proposed ballot measure addressing salaries or benefits. The city council wants citizens to believe that, so it has take attention away from the real issue.

An important fact for the citizens of Palo Alto to know, we the firefighters understand the city is facing tough economic times. That is why the firefighters made a 1.1 million dollar offer of reduction in salaries and benefits to help the city reduce its deficit. The city refused the offer, this is the second time they have refused an offer from the firefighters.

We are convinced by their actions that they have only one goal in mine and that is to reduce firefighters staffing.

We have had the same amount of firefighters for over 35 years, our call volume has gone from less then 3000 calls to near 8000 calls a year, without adding one firefighter.

Our command staff has gone from 13 positions to 6, we have raised this issue with the city manager. We are concerned that without enough chief officers to handle an emergency, it will place the citizens and firefighters in harms way.

We the firefighters are more then willing to speak to the citizens we serve to explain our concerns.

Special Status Report Presentation to Palo Alto City Council Finance Committee April 2010