Fire department cuts personnel, 15 face layoffs


The 15 firefighters employed through the SAFER grant could lose their jobs as grant money dwindles. Photo courtesy of Bill Hack.

Fifteen Chico firefighters face losing their jobs as federal grant funding is lost.

In early 2014, a $5.3 million grant was approved by City Council to fund over a dozen positions for the Fire Department. In two years, the grant money diminished significantly, forcing local firefighters to come to the realization that their jobs may be in danger.

The grant received is called Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Fire Department applied for a second grant, but was denied. The results were not surprising; before actually getting approved for SAFER in 2014, the Fire Department had been denied three times prior.

“It’s time to start the discussion of where we go from here,” said Interim Chief Bill Hack. “We’ll start with City Council. We’ll provide City Council a list of four or five different options to choose from.”

Those options are undisclosed, as they will not be released to the public until the Fire Department shows the list in the form of a staff report to City Council. The report must also include two alternatives.

“We know what the two alternatives are,” Hack said. “There could be no change, which means no money would be added to our budget. The next is keeping with the status quo option.”

Option one means that 15 firefighters who were hired would lose their jobs, whereas option two continues to staff those firefighters. City Council will choose between the two and move from there, Hack said.

“Everyone was told from the beginning that this was a temporary grant,” Hack said. “The new firefighters came into this with the knowledge that they could very well lose their jobs.”

Until anything else is known, the Fire Department is conducting their own data to see what the needs of Chico are when it comes to fire service. They also hired an outside consultant. The consultant will be doing a study known as a standards of response coverage analysis, which reviews:

  • Demonstrated risk of community
  • Areas of potential (downtown area, college South campus area)

Based upon the data, the department will build a new model from scratch. The first draft of the analysis will be available to the department in December.

“This will give us a blueprint of where our department will go for the next 30 to 50 years,” Hack said.

Hack would like to see current staff members keep their jobs, but most importantly have an adequate amount of minimum daily firefighters.

“I don’t want to make any measures until I know what the study says,” Hack said.

If the 15 firefighters lose their jobs, staffing levels would have to be redone. When that happens, it has the potential to impact performance. A reduction of five people a day would include station closures and closing equipment.

The City Council meeting about the future of the Fire Department will take place on Nov. 1.

Katia Berg can be reached at [email protected] or @katiaboli on Twitter.