AUBURN — On Monday, the City of Auburn faced the possibility that it could lose three of its 12 full-time firefighters.
Six months ago, the city extended a federally funded program that allowed them to hire five more firefighters. But now, that money has run out and the city council was asked to extended three positions for the next six months — a cost which will come out of the city’s general fund.
“The funding was scheduled to stop at a certain amount of time,” Tony D’Ambrogi said. “It was a two-year grant process.”
D’Ambrogi is the president of Local 4110, the union that represents Auburn’s firefighters.
“If we were to lose these three safer positions that we currently employ today, we would be severely understaffed,” he said. “We run approximately 2,100 calls in the City of Auburn for our one station, 7 1/2-square-mile department. Within those 2,100 calls, a lot of those calls come back to back.”
D’Ambrogi says currently, the extra firefighters allow the department to run a second engine on most shifts and to keep staffing levels full when firefighters are injured.
“Currently we have one guy out on injury,” D’Ambrogi said.
Monday night, Auburn’s City Council decided whether or not to keep those three firefighters for another six months, paying them out of the city’s general fund. City Councilman Daniel Berlant reports the city council voted unanimously to extend the three firefighters through June and then directed staff to return with a plan to make them permanent.
“Even with a little bit of rain, our fire conditions are still elevated and so it’s critical that we find a way out of our budget to continue to hold on to these three firefighters,” Berlant said.
Berlant says the department had crews on the Camp Fire, a deadly situation that can and has occurred in Auburn. He pointed to the 49 Fire in 2009, when more than 60 homes burned within the city, as a reason to keep the department’s staffing levels full.
“And our firefighters were on the front lines of those fires,” Berlant said.
Still, Berlant admits the money for those firefighters won’t come easily.