In the weekly feature called "e-views," we invite readers to answer a question via email.
This week's question:
The financially distressed East Contra Costa Fire District is looking for ways to keep up its services following the recent $3.5 million reduction in staffing. One idea floated this week is to reinstate a volunteer firefighter program to supplement the paid professionals. What do you think of the idea?
INSTEAD OF OVERTIME, I think one way of keeping everybody's job, is to do on-call positions. This standard is used in hospitals throughout California. Of course, you don't get benefits, but this is one way of keeping overtime and benefits in a managed position; otherwise, every city is going down the tubes. When people retire or quit, the position would be filled with the on-call position.
THE EAST CONTRA COSTA Fire District's financial problems started years ago when the district went from a low-budget volunteer department to a professional one.
At one point Cal Fire (state) offered the district, by contract, a savings of several thousands of dollars using both professionals and volunteers. However, due to union pressure, the council failed to get a majority vote to contract with Cal fire, which also resulted in almost total abandonment of a volunteer staff. Volunteerism is a great commitment and dedication
YEARS AGO OUR leaders lost their common sense. There were many volunteers, with a number of them being firefighters, nurses and medical personnel. A past sheriff deputy, however, told me he did not want firefighters as volunteers, and then eliminated them.
Moving forward, it was brought up many times to go back to volunteers to supplement the full- time personnel. Bottom line is service to the community.
If the leaders (before the Measure S vote) brought back volunteers to supplement the closed stations, their tax increase may have passed. Why would a community vote for more taxes and not have their closed stations reopened?
Yes, we need volunteers, and we need to ask our firefighters living in the community to help until we can stand on our own. I was a full-time firefighter and volunteered for many years in Byron and Discovery Bay.
IT IS ASTONISHING that an important department like the East Contra Costa Fire District will be in such a precarious situation.
However, since desperate situation calls for desperate action, I will support the idea of volunteer firefighter program.
The only concern I have is will the fire district have the resources to provide these volunteers basic training, or refresh the knowledge of some volunteers who were former firefighters?
I think the politicians can do better by sacrificing some of their hefty paychecks, or put an embargo on pay increases for some time, so they can help this district. A change will not happen without a sacrifice.
Something must be done, because even the police department is understaffed. I was happy to know that the Antioch Police Department got grants to hire five police officers. Is that enough? No, but at least it's a step toward a right direction. I hope the East Contra Costa Fire District will bounce back sooner than expected.
This week's question:
Are you bothered by illegal fireworks? Have you seen an increase in the times when such fireworks are ignited? If so, what can be done about it?
Email your response to email@example.com. Please limit responses to a few sentences, and be sure to include your full name and city of residence. Not all responses will be published. Note: Please respond before Monday.