Brothers and Sisters:
As we transition from a mild winter with drought conditions into 100 degree weather, the fire activity has exploded statewide. The lack of water around the state has created many complications for our membership, both on and off the job. First, the lack of water has created thousands of acres of bug kill from the Sierras to Southern California. Because of this, we’ll see fires that are bigger and burn faster. Adding to fuel conditions, the lack of snow and moisture in the live and dead fuel has also created the perfect storm for burning conditions. Please be safe and always look out for each other so that you can come home to your family and friends.
Tim Edwards, the State Rank-and-File Director, and I have made it a high priority to visit every new FFA and COA. Our goal is to discuss the most current issues and, more importantly, listen to our members’ concerns. Items we discuss include hiring, training, testing, deep class, academy discipline (double jeopardy), plus many more topics. Without a doubt, the most important issue amongst the troops is the constant revolving hiring process and wage compaction.
As many of you know, the hiring process will again be revamped and involve a written exam. The written exam will be for the ranks of Firefighter II, Fire Apparatus Engineer and Fire Captain. I realize that many units have been transitioning employees from position to position because of the hiring process. Our hope is that management will recognize the effects that it is currently having at the fire station level. The lack of consistency of employees at the local level creates a recipe for disaster. It is important that when we respond to emergencies, consistency amongst the engine companies and responding equipment is of high priority. The compaction issue will be addressed starting in July during bargaining sessions with CALHR. We will again be discussing the impacts of minimum wage and how it affects the ranks.
An issue that has come to the forefront, and many of our members have asked the question before, is why our firefighters are not being trained in municipal firefighting but being asked to perform all-risk emergencies. Well, I am happy to say that the Department will be looking into training of all our ranks when it comes to municipal firefighting.
Last week, the union was briefed on the “deep classing” of the firefighter ranks. There are many processes that will need to take place to get the deep classing in line. First, the Department is looking at what it will take for two classifications to be merged into one. Second, once that is accomplished the department will look into what are the minimum qualifications of this proposed new classification. We all look forward to this completion in a timely manner.
One of our biggest concerns moving into this fire season is the burnout factor. As many of you know, the Academy will be training our company officers into September. Make it a priority to get adequate rest and take care of each other. With the lack of company officers, you will again be asked to work long hours with little time off.
I will leave you with this: do not overextend yourself to the point of endangering your life or that of your fellow employees. The number one priority is to come home after every shift. I firmly believe that this is the best Department in the world. We can accomplish many great things from the bottom up because ground pounders like you make the difference in the safety of all Californians.
Take care and be safe!