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What is a Firefighter?

Vote No on the Recall.

What is a firefighter? If you were to ask your neighbor, what would she say?

The mission of every firefighter is to protect lives, property and the environment — in that very same order. A firefighter will risk a lot to save a lot.

The title of firefighter is somewhat misleading. Yes, running into a burning building is something that a firefighter will do without hesitation, however the actual task of putting "The Wet Stuff on The Red Stuff" is only one of many hats donned by a firefighter.

Again, what is a firefighter?

A firefighter will be there to remove the pile of metal that was once a vehicle, which is now wrapped around your 17-year-old son. A firefighter will be there when your two-year-old daughter has a febrile seizure. A firefighter will even be there when you lock your keys in your Toyota Camry.

Firefighting is not what you see depicted on TV and in the movies, they tend to romanticize the profession. Although the movies can serve as a recruitment tool for the fire service, those who are seeking a career as a firefighter for the glory, for the uniform, or to be a hero will never make it onto the floor. In California only the top 1 percent of aspiring firefighters will ever have the opportunity to serve their community in the scope of a professional firefighter.  

The recruitment process for the firefighting professional is a rigorous one and is specifically designed to weed out those who are seeking the career for the aforementioned reasons. Even so, the vast majority of those who are seeking to be a firefighter for the correct reasons, unfortunately will not have the opportunity — only the elite will earn a spot on the engine.

So, why am I telling you this?

As you may or may not be aware, there is a political debate here on the Coast that has the potential to affect every resident who calls the Coastside home. The Fire Department here on the Coast is a specialized district consisting of the geographical areas from Montara down through Half Moon Bay, called the Coastside Fire Protection District (CFPD). The CFPD differs somewhat from other municipal fire departments in that the District is governed by a Board of Directors, whereas other municipal departments are usually governed by a City Council.  

Currently the CFPD is under a labor contract with the State Fire Agency, Cal Fire. Cal Fire is contracted to provide fire service here on the Coast through June 2013.  
Contrary to the belief, Cal Fire does not own the firefighting equipment in our fire stations. Coastside Fire owns all three front line fire engines, Coastside Fire owns the Quint (the fire apparatus with the big white aerial ladder), Coastside Fire owns all of the reserve engines, the battalion vehicles and the three fire stations.  

Cal Fire does not own or operate the ambulance that you may have seen here on the Coast. The CFPD contracts with American Medical Response of San Mateo County to provide the Coastside with a means of emergency medical treatment and transport.  

The Board majority — the three members being recalled, Doug Mackintosh, Mike Alifano and Gary Riddell — voted to end the contract with Cal Fire at the end of the current term. They are being recalled because they have found it to be financially responsible and feasible to build a better, standalone fire department that is more responsive to the needs of visitors and residents of the Coastside.

On April 9th the special election to recall the Board Majority will be held. There is a multitude of reasons the proponents of the recall have established as their platform, one of which I have started to discuss and will continue to do so for the remainder of this blog: What is a firefighter?

It has been mentioned, if we — the residents of the Coastside do not recall the Majority (of the Fire Board), we will have an understaffed and under-trained fire department. Understaffed and under-trained will never be adjectives used to describe a fire department and certainly not used to describe our Coastside Fire Protection District.

Remember all firefighters, including the future firefighters of our Coastside Fire Protection District will be sworn to protect lives, property and the environment. Every CFPD Firefighter takes an oath to serve our community.  

When it does come time to run into your burning home, every responding firefighter will be trained and every fire engine will have at least three exceptionally skilledfFirefighters on board.

Will every CFPD firefighter be fully trained?

All Firefighters operate in teams, regardless if it is a structure fire, wildland fire or medical call. All calls for emergency require teamwork. As mentioned earlier, firefighters are not heroes, they may perform heroic tasks, but firefighters are not heroes.  

Our CFPD firefighters put their lives on the line for us knowing that if something shall go wrong, they know the other CFPD Firefighters  have the finest training, the strength, and mental fortitude to perform the rescue. In other words, there is not a fire department in this country, including the CFPD, that will put an under-trained person on the floor. An under-trained person not only puts the public in danger but also endangers his entire Fire Crew.  

You would be hard pressed to find a single firefighter who has the words under-trained and understaffed in his vocabulary, let alone one who is comfortable with a mediocre, under-trained partner who will ultimately jeopardize his life and the lives of our community.  

Only the top 1 percent of aspiring firefighters will have the opportunity to become an elite, highly trained professional. And rest assured, the Coastside Fire Protection District will be selecting amongst the elite. There is no room, and certainly no time for mediocrity.

On April 9th, Support A Better Fire Department. Vote NO in support of all three Recallees.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

George Muteff January 28, 2013 at 04:10 PM
"They are being recalled because they have found it to be financially responsible and feasible to build a better, standalone fire department that is more responsive to the needs of visitors and residents of the Coastside." You sure about that Marc?
George Muteff January 28, 2013 at 08:09 PM
Marc, I am sure that we all appreciate your enthusiasm, just as I'm sure there are some that may agree with your synopsis and some that may not; but in the interest of serving the public accurately and completely, may I suggest that you provide full disclosure in your pitch. According to this, http://www.coastsidefire.org/current , you are listed as one of the CFPD Volunteers. That is your picture at the left side of the second row, isn't it? With that in mind, wouldn't it be more comprehensive for the readers, and a more appropriate thing for you to do to inform the readers you are attempting to sway with that knowledge and also to let the readers know that if the recall is unsuccessful and Cal Fire is history, that you stand to get a paid position as a direct result? Full disclosure is important. Without it, one might get the impression that you are not being entirely truthful, and we wouldn't want that, now would we Marc? It's kind of like being pregnant; either you are or you're not - there really is no middle ground.
Harvey Rarback January 29, 2013 at 03:02 AM
Mr. Higaki is setting up a non-existent straw man: no one disputes that firefighters are well trained and professional. The real issue is whether returning to the old dysfunctional and expensive standalone fire department makes any sense. Three grand juries, the Fire Board's own consultants and the Half Moon Bay Review all agree that it does not. On April 9 please vote Yes on the recall and then vote for me, Karen Anderson and JB Cockrell so that we can keep Cal Fire. Please see http://keepcalfire.org for more information.
George Muteff January 29, 2013 at 04:46 AM
With all due respect, Harvey, the real issue for me is different. What troubles me more than the Cal Fire / standalone issue (and for most that is the "real issue"), I am much more disappointed, frustrated and angry at the antics of the majority. The bullying of the other Board members and more to the point, the complete disrespect of and arrogance for the public that each Board member is there to 'serve' is what has got to stop. The lack of transparency, the games, the absolutely foolish spending and just the way they go about doing business (our business) is enough for me. I asked them, both publicly and privately, multiple times over a period of months to open up, lay everything on the table and let's talk about it; I even begged, and I am not accustomed to that, but I felt it was worth it - nothing. In one ear (maybe) and right out the other. Just no regard for the public. That's no way to run an airline. To this moment, has anyone seen a legitimate "Plan" for this transition, where every detail, every contingency, every what if is on the table for scrutiny? The current Board is dysfunctional and until the cause is eliminated, we can and will see a continuation of what we've seen for over a year now. Communication is a beautiful thing. Transparency is a beautiful thing. Honesty is a beautiful thing. Hopefully, we'll get those things come April 10th. I don't expect perfection - I just expect a best effort from all 5.
pae January 29, 2013 at 09:29 PM
That was a lovely description of the firefighters we currently have, all of whom are employed and trained by CAL FIRE. The CAL FIRE leadership was able to take a very dysfunctional group of the former Half Moon Bay Fire Department employees and turn them, along with other CAL FIRE employees, into a smoothly functioning fire service that the Coastside had not had for many years. CAL FIRE provided additional training and most importantly, experience, that the HMB personnel did not have, especially in the area of actually fighting fires. they also provided training and valuable experience in managing large incidents. The recruits the present Board majority wants to train from scratch in a very expensive fire academy solely paid for by our small District will have limited actual firefighting experience, since the Coastside averages only @6-7 structure fires per year. With 3 engine companies of 3 men on 2 day shifts, a new firefighter here will be lucky to attend one fire per year. If it's your house, would you be confident that the men on the red truck are as experienced as you need them to be? One huge benefit we have with CAL FIRE is that they can rotate less experienced personnel to major fires elsewhere to gain that invaluable experience. The Oakland Hills fire could happen here in very easily; when it does, we need those first boots on the ground to know exactly whFat to do to limit the damage before other resources can arrive to help. http://keepcalfirelocal.com
pae January 30, 2013 at 03:20 AM
It's true that we currently contract with AMR for ambulance service. There's a reason why that was done...during the final year or two in the old dysfunctional HMB Department staff who weren't crazy about ambulance duty used to call in sick when they were scheduled to work the ambulance. Then their buddies got to work overtime to cover the shifts, at time and a half overtime pay. Then they reversed the favor, so the first players got more overtime, too. Taxpayers spent over a million dollars on overtime that year. To stop the financial hemorrhage, the board at that time had to discontinue our own ambulance service. A couple of the current recallees have proposed to park another ambulance over here, to be staffed solely by more overtime, not more staff. Fortunately they backed off because of the recall. We'd like to explore having a second ambulance here again, but not under another very expensive standalone department with questionable management. CAL FIRE would staff our own ambulances with a simple addition to their contract, but at a far lower cost than could be done with another standalone department.
Jesse Lyshorn January 30, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Like Marc I am a Volunteer Firefighter for the CFPD (my name and picture are not on the website because it is not up to date for full disclosure purposes) As a coastider since birth I have invested interest in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of my family, friends and hometown; this is why I support the reinstatement of a standalone agency. I want to address your accusations of Marc, or any other Volunteer, "attempting to sway" readers one way or another with personal agendas in mind as this could not be further from the truth. If the recall is unsuccessful the volunteers who choose to apply have the same chances of attaining a paid position as they would applying to any other department nationwide. The fire service is a very competitive field and contrary to what you or any others may believe, the most qualified candidates earn their positions through testing, training, and a lengthy interview processes. A standalone agency is the coastsides best option because a standalone agency recognizes and understands the coast for the unique and specialized community it is. Cal Fire has not fulfilled their contractual obligations since day 1 and instead of putting in the extra time and effort to make necessary changes they offer to reduce the contract amount; the coastide doesn’t need mediocre service for less money, they need a department who will fulfill the needs of the community. It’s time to replace Cal Fire with a department that holds our best interests as priorities.
George Muteff January 31, 2013 at 06:09 AM
Jesse, while I appreciate your enthusiasm (and disclosure, btw), I don't see that you present any good arguments here that serve or support your conclusion, which of course is your opinion. You appeal to the local aspect from the standpoint of being born and raised here. My kids, who aren't kids anymore are 5th generation HMB, so I can understand your heartfelt point. I don't know how old you are, but I've lived here well over 3 decades. Does that mean that you have a stronger love of home? of life? of family? - or visa versa? This is my family's home; hence my interest and concerns. As to your "competitive field" line; yes, it is. However, I might share 3 words that may have some bearing here: supply and demand. That, of course, doesn't begin to touch other issues that are important; like timeframe, cost, safety nets, open dialog, open leadership, communication, transparency and so much more. You seem to be generous with generalities and accusations, and less so with specifics, but then that falls under the umbrella of opinion and you are certainly entitled to yours. I appreciate your service to our community and hope that you don't sour, no matter how this plays out. We all play a part and we all want to 'ensure the safety and well being of our families'. Thank you. Btw, Marc was most assuredly "trying to sway". Why else would he post what he posted? And those weren't "accusations", but rather observations.
Dee January 31, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Keep Cal Fire? Cal Fire kept $3.6 million from state's treasury, records show: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/california-politics/2013/01/cal-fire.html?fb_action_ids=4978889345961&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map={%224978889345961%22%3A154346271382632}&action_type_map={%224978889345961%22%3A%22og.recommends%22}&action_ref_map=[] "The Cal Fire fund is just the latest discovery of money hidden by California agencies and raises questions about whether there are others that like this one were entirely off the state books."
pae February 04, 2013 at 04:55 PM
This has nothing to do with the quality, experience and superb training of our CAL FIRE firefighters here on the coast.

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