Pacifica residents threaten to slash funds for fire services

The fate of six Pacifica firefighters and one fire station is in the hands of city residents, who are unhappy with their fire services and may vote to discontinue funding for the North County Fire Authority.

The 26 firefighters and two fire stations in Pacifica are overseen by the North County Fire Authority, which also controls fire services for Daly City and Brisbane. Since 2004, Pacifica residents have contributed $1 million annually to the authority, but a recent transfer of three firefighters from Pacifica to Daly City has many residents and city officials grumbling where their money is going.

As a result, residents have said they may slash the $1 million assessment tax next year.

But Battalion Chief Bob Trapp said the North County Fire Authority management recently threatened to lay off six firefighters if Pacifica does not pass the tax in 2009. The firing could lead to the loss of a fire station, officials said.

“There are overbearing threats that are hanging over our heads,” Trapp said. “We’re concerned about employment stability.”

City officials and Pacifica firefighters are now wondering whether to sever ties with the fire authority and are asking the public to consider three options: stay with the North County Fire Authority, create its own fire department or join the South San Francisco Fire Department.

“We need to see, are we getting what we thought we were getting when we joined North County Fire Authority?” City Councilmember Sue Degre said.

Pacifica’s firefighters, Trapp said, make up less than one-third of the North County Fire Authority’s force of 95 firefighters. Although Pacifica joined the multicity agency to reduce costs, City Manager Steve Rhodes said he questions whether Pacifica saved any money. The city recently hired an outside consultant to determine the cost effectiveness and gather comments from firefighters and the public on what they would like to do. Some citizens said they find the hiring move surprising.

“They need an outside consultant to tell them what they’ve been doing for the past four years?” resident Mark Stechbart asked.

Resident Jeri Flinn said before voting to continue the tax next year she wants to know exactly how the money will be spent.

“I think fire safety is one of the crucial things when you are a homeowner,” she said.

North County Fire Authority managers did not comment on the issue.

Pacifica is holding a public forum today at 6 p.m. at the Sanchez Art Center, 1220 Linda Mar Blvd.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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