CALIFORNIA COUNCIL BACKS FUNDING TO INCREASE STAFFING OF 2-PERSON ENGINE COMPANIES

November 11, 2023 08:16 PM
By Giuseppe Ricapito
The Marin Independent Journal

FAIRFAX, Calif. — Fairfax has signaled its support for an increased funding plan that would augment staffing at the Ross Valley Fire Department. The Town Council was briefed at a meeting on Nov. 1. Council members said they would back a new funding plan the fire board is set to vote on before the end of the year.

The fire department has been seeking to increase its staffing to accommodate three people per fire engine throughout much of this year. “I support the funding plan and the start date for the third firefighter,” said Vice Mayor Barbara Coler.

The Ross Valley fire board discussed the item at a meeting on Oct. 11 and directed member representatives to bring the item back to their respective boards for further discussion. Fairfax Town Manager Heather Abrams said the fire board vote would need to be unanimous. A date has not been set. The department is a consolidated agency serving Ross, San Anselmo, Sleepy Hollow and Fairfax. The board includes representatives of each jurisdiction.

Fire Chief Dan Mahoney said the Ross Valley Fire Department is the last department in Marin with two-person engines. Since the inception of the joint powers authority in 1982, the agency has been largely bolstered by a volunteer firefighter service. “I’ve been waiting 24 years for this,” Mahoney said.

The updated staffing plan would require an increase of approximately $632,000 to the department’s budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year, with each member jurisdiction paying a proportional share of the total. If the board approves the funding, the agency would hire a firefighter-paramedic to join the team at Station 19 in San Anselmo next summer.

The bolstered budget would enable the department to hire three more firefighters, purchase their gear and train the new recruits. The department’s 11-member labor management subcommittee, composed of staff and officials, voted unanimously at a meeting on Oct. 5 to recommend approval of the proposal.

The department serves about 25,000 residents. It has four fire stations with nine firefighters on duty daily. Fairfax’s budget for fire services is $2,954,274 for this year, its second largest department funding following the police, a staff report said.

According to the department’s 2023-24 budget, San Anselmo pays the fire agency about $4 million; Ross, $2.4 million; and Sleepy Hollow, $1.3 million. The cost for each agency would increase under the proposed staffing change. San Anselmo would pay another $256,161, Ross and Fairfax about $147,000 each and Sleepy Hollow another $80,900. Those amounts would increase incrementally through the fiscal year ending in 2027, according to a staff report.

In 2019, an analysis of the Ross Valley agency recommended three-person engines for its San Anselmo, Sleepy Hollow and Fairfax fire stations. The analysis recommended that Station 18 in Ross remain a two-person company because it also has ambulances from the Ross Valley Paramedic Authority. The remaining engine companies will be staffed with three people after the Ross station closes on July 1, 2025. The three fire captains and three firefighter-engineers from the Ross station will be moved to the other stations once it shuts down.

(c)2023 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)