Contrary to the recent online Review article after the last Fire Board meeting, IT IS NOT TRUE THAT IT WILL BE TOO LATE TO PURSUE A CONTRACT WITH CAL FIRE WHEN THE RECALL ELECTION IS OVER!
If the citizens win the recall, and their candidates win the seats now held by Alifano, Mackintosh and Riddell, the first thing the new Board members will do is negotiate a new CAL FIRE contract. They will not wait for the June 30 deadline to arrive without a fully trained and fully qualified firefighting staff in place and continuing to function. They will not sit by while CAL FIRE is forced to start reassigning its permanent personnel to other areas because our Board majority has again refused to approve a new contract or even a letter of intent to contract.
A brand new, fully functional standalone fire department cannot be in place by the June 30 date with the new firefighters they are planning to train. There just is not enough time for that to happen, regardless of the empty promises of the Board majority.
Our current CAL FIRE staff are fully qualified, experienced firefighter paramedics, and the purpose of the recall is to keep them all here working on the Coastside. The actions of Mackintosh, Alifano and Riddell in again refusing to renew the contract and in refusing to submit a letter of intent to renew a contract are beyond irresponsible and are placing Coastside communities in danger.
Second, Directors McShane and Burke voted to extend the CAL FIRE contract for a minimum of one year and to submit the letter of intent now to negotiate a new contract, since we currently have no contract in place for our fire service at all. Alifano, Mackintosh and Riddell voted on two occasions last spring not to renew the contract for this fiscal year, 2012-2013. That we have a fire service at all is only because CAL FIRE unilaterally chose to invoke a clause in our previous contract allowing them to stay on for an additional year should this community be in the position of having no fire service in place. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for that! Now we are in that position again. This time without a contract in place, CAL FIRE cannot again step in and help us. Alifano is so sure that he can't possibly lose the recall that he sees no problem with this. And, of course, Riddell and Mackintosh vote with him as a bloc, as the three always do. Alifano is sure that he can "educate" the community to see things his way, and said so. He also claims that his consultants think there is no problem with the timeline ending in June.
At the next to the last meeting when Alifano and the bloc voted to hold the recall election in April rather than early March, even Riddell came out with concerns that a fire academy cannot be organized and completed by June 30, with all the new trainees they want to hire being ready to go by that date. Never mind the probation period all would have to complete before functioning without direct supervision, plus the additional training needed to drive a fire truck on the road and operate it on scene, and the paramedic training our current firefighters have.
As the Redwood City fire chief told the San Carlos City Council, it takes nearly two years to fully qualify a firefighter paramedic. For the breakdown on this, click here. At that same meeting, though, Alifano convinced Riddell to vote with him on holding the election on April 9, the the last possible date, rather than holding it at an earlier date in order to assure our communities ongoing fire services. He plans to use the June 30 deadline to campaign against the recall, and to have his new department ready to go on April 10, as soon as the election results are in.
Mackintosh says that other Peninsula fire departments will cover us if this dream department is not ready to go, because of county mutual aid agreements. But those departments are located over the hill, and their staff would have no way of learning the Coastside while functioning on an ad hoc basis. That these three elected officials, Mackintosh, Alifano and Riddell, are so unethical that they have yet again placed us in jeopardy in order to carry out their personal agendas is appalling and arrogant. There is no other way to describe it. They are looking for power and control, and they mistakenly think that only local residents can care enough to provide safe emergency services.
Yes, locals may care, but so do all firefighters who spend three days per week living in the communities they serve, as our CAL FIRE personnel who do not reside here do! California law does not allow jurisdictions to require that only local residents may work in their public safety agencies for very good reason. More on this here and here (bottom of page).