Pinole Firefighters – Why are they leaving?

Fire_FighterslTuesday, August 20, 2013
The Pinole City Council reversed its decision of June 2013 and have agreed to accept a Federal $1.24 Million SAFER Grant.
The Grant was previously presented as a way to reopen Valley Station #74 for a two-year period.
But the Council, after initially approving it, decided that the cost to man the station with overtime, was excessive.
The Council rejected the Grant.
That action not only took the community by surprise, but it also did not sit well, with Mike Thompson, who had championed the Federal Grant for Pinole.
On the heels Pinole’s rejection the Rodeo-Hercules Fire District moved to obtain the grant.
On Tuesday the Council again changed its mind. This time citing the viability of new options that would mitigate the overtime costs and allow the addition of services.
Tom Lochner reports on this here.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

As was reported by the West County Times’  Tom Lochner on June 11, 2013, Pinole lost four fire fighters to other cities.
Why, I wondered, would these fire fighters make that move? Was it due to better benefits, salaries, training? What would cause them to “jump ship”?

Was it prompted by the politically charged climate in Pinole, a climate that some say is “toxic” and anti-union? Did it have something to do with Jeff Rubin, the most vocal member of the Concerned Citizens of Pinole,  the political action committee behind the 2007 recall and instrumental in the election of four of the five sitting council members and his self-proclaimed war on Local 1230?

To be sure there are serious concerns about the firefighters union and other labor unions’ salaries, benefits and pensions. Valid concerns exist not just in Contra Costa County but throughout the state. Most agree that pension reform is necessary, but many also agree that changes must begin at the State level and that true and comprehensive reform will take time. But, a line seems to have been drawn in the sand in Pinole.
I asked Vince Wells, President of Local 1230, the United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, to comment on the exodus of fire fighters in Pinole. His comments are posted below.

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Four of Pinole’s firefighters have resigned and left for other Fire Departments. One was hired by the City of Vallejo, and the other three moved next door to the Rodeo Hercules Fire District. This is due to the toxic environment that exist between the firefighters, city management, the City Council, and the group once known as the “Concerned Citizens of Pinole. One only has to go back and watch the many city council meetings where fire services were on the agenda to see how disrespectful they were to those who provide Fire and EMS protection to the citizens of Pinole and surrounding jurisdictions. I believe more of the firefighters would leave if they weren’t so vested in the department and late into their careers. I predict that the firefighters hired to replace them will not stay long either, unless there are drastic changes.

The Citizens of Pinole need to engage and hold their City Council accountable to provide them with firefighters that are well equipped, staffed, and have the training necessary. The firefighters morale also has a significant impact on the level of service provided; the current morale is amongst the lowest in the county.

Getting a job as a firefighter is very competitive. Sometimes you take what you can get until you arrive at the department of your choice. That was not the case with those that left the department. Most of them were from the area. and enjoyed working in the community in which they grew up in or around.

The City Manager was aware of the fact that Chief Hanley was going to hire three of the Pinole Firefighters. This was not something that was unknown to Pinole. It is my opinion that the City Council and City Management wanted to lower their staffing and did not want the responsibility of having to take the SAFER grant to re-open station 74. They will use this as their excuse along with the “unfair labor practice” charges we have filed against them. Do not be fooled by the attacks on the ethics of Chief Hanley, this is a smoke screen. Their desires all alone, were to get the staffing down to no more then 12 firefighters to put the re-opening of station 74 further out of reach. Mission accomplished!

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This is a deadly serious topic.
A civil dialogue within the community and among the stake holders is long overdue. This public feuding has gone on far too long and has only served to alienate our firefighters and to place our city in a most precarious position, one that may put Pinole citizens and businesses in harms way.

2 thoughts on “Pinole Firefighters – Why are they leaving?

  1. The firefighters have withstood being bullied for years at City council meetings
    I am not surprised by this.

  2. Some helmet cam footage to give you a glimpse of West Contra Costa County’s Battalion 7.Sue, Vince and Ivette, you’re all right! For those who do not know me, I grew up in Pinole and I’m one of the 4 firefighters that left to another department. I had many reasons mostly to better my career. But the one thing that still does not sit well with me is all of the misinformation, i.e. over paid, not many fires to fight and the firefighters and their union is to blame. This is all far from the truth! Attached is a link to a video over about a year from my helmet cam when I was a firefighter in Pinole. I hope this puts some perspective to what yours firefighters actually do on a routine basis. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaFGMQukY0o&feature=youtu.be

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