The goal of the Modesto Fire Department is to get all engines to your crisis within 10 minutes – the first within six.
“In a medical emergency, brain death begins at six minutes, so it allows us to start evasive action to keep brain death from happening,” Interim City Fire Chief Sean Slamon said Wednesday.
With its city facing tough financial times, the Modesto Fire Department has had to cut $1 million from its current budget and $1 million more from the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
That could mean losing nine positions, or the staffing for one house, bringing department levels to just 129 firefighters.
“Currently, our 10 minute response time, we only meet that 75-80 percent of the time and I see that going down even further,” Slamon said.
Likening crime to fires, Modesto’s police chief feels just as overwhelmed with the $2 million he has to trim from his budget – unable to hire for an already understaffed department.
“We’re just going out putting out fires and pretty soon you have a big fire so to speak. That’s when it starts to get away from you,” Chief Galen Carroll said.
Modesto’s voters left their city in this position, defeating a one-cent sales tax to fund public safety that was on the fall ballot.
“I feel pretty uncomfortable about it,” Modesto resident and former city council candidate Rickey McGill told FOX40.
But there’s no arguing with the numbers Modesto’s up against in a recession hangover.
“We’re about $20 million below what we had in 2008, but if you consider inflation, it’s probably $35 million, Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh said.
The city has decided it can’t keep borrowing from reserves to plug the $6.9 million hole in the general fund, but it will be borrowing on the optimal standards for public safety.
The specific budget session on the city fire department will take place at 9am Thursday in city council chambers.
The entire city council will vote on the budget cut proposals June 10.