According to firefighters, the Oroville Fire Department is the busiest station north of Sacramento. They respond to roughly 4,000 calls a year, and with staffing levels already stretched thin the department is now facing another possible reduction. The city council is expected to vote tonight whether to reduce the minimum amount of on duty firefighters from 4 to 3. That means if someone calls in sick or is on vacation the department would not be able to call in a fourth person to fill their spot.
Oroville Director of Public Safety Bill LaGrone says, "The volume of work is still the same. It hasn't changed. We have the same number of calls. If anything, they're increasing, but we've decreased the number of employees we have to respond to those calls."
Fire personnel say 30% of the calls they go out on require 2 trucks to respond. If the department is forced to reduce it's staffing it would be down to just one, meaning there would be no one at the station to respond when there's multiple calls.
"Simultaneous dispatches will not be able to occur within the city. What that means is we will have to rely more heavily upon our firefighting partners in the El Medio Fire District and Butte County Cal Fire to augment our service and provide more engines for those calls," says LaGrone.
Earlier this year, Chief Charles Hurley was laid off and replaced by the police chief as the city's public safety director. No layoffs would happen this time around, but city councilman Dave Pittman says if the staffing reduction is approved it would save the city roughly $70,000-$80,000 in overtime costs. All in an effort to close the city's $2.1 million budget deficit.
In July, the city council gave the fire department 90 days to come back with possible concessions to avoid a staff reduction, but Pittman says none of the department's recommendations would have offered much in terms of savings.