Over 40 firefighter positions threatened due to budget struggles

A report submitted by the chief offers several options that could provide the county with more than $10 million in savings

By FireRescue1 Staff

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — In a struggle to cut costs, a fire chief and his staff proposed shutting down a hazardous material unit and reducing the number of firefighters during each shift. 

Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins submitted the report to a city board Tuesday, which was met with opposition from council and community members. 

“I believe the board needs to be prioritizing services,” supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “But we need to budget triage, and we shouldn’t be asking the chief to walk in front of a firing squad before everybody else.”  

Fire department expenses are expected to increase to a potential $12 million in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, following a new four-year collective bargaining agreement with Cal Fire, reported the Patch.com.

Chief Hawkins’ report offers several options that could provide the county with more than $10 million in savings. 

The report would deactivate one of two hazmat teams, and reduce the firefighters on each engine wherever possible. Instead of three firefighters responding to medical calls, the report recommended the deployment of a two-person medic patrol unit staffed by a fire captain, engineer or paramedic. The report also suggested closing one fire station.

Additionally, the report suggested a revamped cost recovery strategy that would allow the department to bill individuals who receive care during traffic accidents or similar emergencies. 

In total, the chief’s report would result in cutting 42 vacant and existing fire personnel positions. 

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