Local governments provide nearly three-quarters of the mutual aid in California. That is something FOX40 heard multiple times, including from Metropolitan Fire of Sacramento.
Fire chiefs said they are stretched thin and want resources to go directly to them.
“Now in a fight for our lives here in the West. This is our normal now, and I expect next year will be anywhere near as bad and the year after that,” said one fire official.
Firefighters have been challenged with the increasingly difficult job of not only protecting their own communities but the state.
“In the city of Glendale, we have always been good mutual aid partners. We’ve always tried to help as much as we can, but the increase in the demand and the length of time that these requests are coming in for is definitely exponentially increasing every year,” said Glendale Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas.
Gathering in downtown Sacramento, fire chiefs are attending the fire portion of the League of California Cities annual conference.
Dan Munsey is the fire chief for San Bernardino County.
“Those firefighters are already working overtime to fill those vacancies,” Munsey said.
Munsey added that for some departments many firefighters are retiring or leaving the profession, creating a gap when they are needed most.
“And then you are asking them to go on campaign fires where they can be gone for 14 days to 21 days. And they come home and as soon as they get back in the fire station they are back to normal,” Munsey said. “And they are working more. And they are being forced hired, which means that we are telling those firefighters you can’t go home you have to be in the fire station to work these vacant shifts. So, the toll is immense.”
As for possible solutions, Dan Stefano, fire chief for Costa Mesa and former president of the California Fire Chiefs Association, said reimbursement should be upfront.
“Investing the funds and the resources now, investing in technology now, and making sure that it makes its way to the local governments. That is the key. That is something that is going to help us,” Stefano said.
The fire chiefs, who are all from Southern California, said another concern is the fire season in their part of the state is only going to pick up. Now, they have to worry about their own fire crews’ physical and mental fatigue.