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Thursday, September 27, 2012

SMFPD will merge with CAL FIRE takes effect Dec. 3

 San Miguel Fire Protection District entered into a long-anticipated mutual agreement to contract out its fire services to CAL FIRE.

According to a district report, San Miguel will pay Cal Fire $68.2 million over the next five-and-a-half years to provide the services. The new contract would close the current budget gap largely by the elimination of several positions and longer work hours by firefighters.

  • The merger will eliminate a division chief, two administrative specialists, nine fire suppression positions and the position of fire chief, currently held by longtime San Miguel firefighter Gary Croucher.
  • Cal Fire’s San Diego Unit Chief Howard Windsor will function as chief for the San Miguel District and two Cal Fire division chiefs will be the direct supervisors.
  • The contract will increase by 3 percent during the 2013-14 fiscal year.
The San Miguel Fire Protection District made the following announcement on Tuesday, Sept. 25: The San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors voted Tuesday night to approve a Cooperative Service Agreement with CAL FIRE. The Board voted unanimously to approve the 5 1/2-year agreement.
“This Cooperative Agreement allows the District to proceed with a balanced budget, maintain the current level of service for our residents and provide for the long-term viability of the District,"“It is important for residents to know the transition of firefighters from San Miguel to CAL FIRE will be as seamless as possible. As the agreement gets underway the District will continue to provide the same high level of service to the community.”  Board president Chris Winter said.  
Both affected labor groups approved of the transition through the cooperative agreement.
“The Board of Directors and our firefighters have put public safety first in this historic decision," "The majority of our annual savings will come from the firefighters working longer shifts and the reduction of overtime.” - said San Miguel Fire Chief Gary Croucher. 
The transition of District firefighters will occur on December 31, 2012.

The San Miguel Fire District and its Board of Directors will remain intact, and the District will continue to own all of its assets. While the District’s suppression personnel will transfer to State employment, several District employees will remain. These positions would include a Fire Marshal, two Fire Inspectors, a Business Services Manager, a Secretary, a Fleet Maintenance Supervisor, a Fire Apparatus Mechanic and a Public Information Officer.

The San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District is experiencing its fourth year of declining revenue vs. expenditures. The District has lost roughly 20 percent (about $2.5 million) of its property tax revenue since 2009.

Ninety-seven percent of the District’s revenue comes from property taxes. For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012, the District was facing a budget shortfall of approximately $1.6 million. Since the current economic crisis began the District has reduced expenses by millions of dollars. Reductions included:

  • Permanent closure of Engine 15.
  • Station 23 shifted temporarily to a two-person medic squad from a three-person engine.
  • Significant employee givebacks, which included increasing the amount employees contribute to pensions, as well as paying a greater share of their medical benefits. Other concessions included the elimination of holiday pay for rank and file employees, decreased leave earn rates, the reduction of overtime and implementation of furlough days.
  • Reductions in personnel.
  • Significant reductions in overall expenditures.
 In an attempt to eliminate the structural budget deficit and maintain the existing level of direct emergency services, the Board of Directors authorized a Request for Proposal be issued to surrounding fire agencies.

This in turn led to the CAL FIRE proposal, the only proposal that was received.

The primary objective of the Board and the Fire Chief is to ensure that the citizens and businesses of the San Miguel Fire District receive the best level of service possible within the resources available. During the course of the contract, the San Miguel Board of Directors will monitor all aspects of CAL FIRE’s performance to help ensure service levels for residents remain at the high quality expected.

The San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District is the largest fire district in San Diego County. The District was formed on July 1, 1988 through a merger of the Spring Valley and the Grossmont/Mt. Helix Fire Protection Districts, and again on July 3, 2008 with the East County Fire Protection District. The District has grown over the past 20 years in commercial businesses, housing density and population.

The District provides suppression, prevention and emergency medical services to approximately 134,000 residents. Its suppression force responds to approximately 9,000 fire and medical-related emergencies annually, serving the Communities of Bostonia, Casa de Oro, Crest, Grossmont/Mt. Helix, La Presa, Rancho San Diego, Spring Valley, and unincorporated areas of El Cajon and La Mesa.

The contract takes effect Dec. 3

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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