Originally posted at www.theliberaloc.com

Santa Ana will continue to have fire protection after April 20, 2012, but the 128 years of the Santa Ana Fire Department history will come to an abrupt end. That is if the proposed outsourcing of fire services is approved at Tuesday nights meeting of the City Council.

Items 60 A-C, on the February 21, 2012 Santa Ana City Council meeting agenda, propose to terminate the contractual agreements between the city Santa Ana Fire Department personnel and approve the outsourcing agreement with the Orange County Fire Authority.

The Voice of OC reports:

Under the agreement, the city would pay OCFA $33.7 million annually for fire services and be able to shave $10.5 million off its current budget, according to an OCFA proposal.

Much of the savings would come from decreased staffing. The OCFA requires a daily staffing level of 48 firefighters, while the city’s fire department staffs 63 firefighters daily. The extra firefighters will be assigned to positions now vacant at OCFA.

On February 8th, Voice of OCreported that not all of Santa Ana’s Fire personnel were happy with the proposed transition to OCFA.

A contentious divide has formed in recent months within the Santa Ana Firemen’s Benevolent Association as younger members have broken ranks over whether the Orange County Fire Authority should absorb the city’s 128-year-old Fire Department.

Sources close to the union say its younger members are in favor of the move, mainly because it gives them job security, but older firefighters don’t want to give up the decades-long identity and tradition of the Santa Ana Fire Department.
“The Orange County Register has made it sound like negotiations have gone swimmingly,” said one source, who didn’t want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation. “The truth is they haven’t.”
Chris Roelle, president of the Santa Ana Firemen’s Benevolent Association, wrote in an emailed statement sent by his spokesman:

“Every one of the Santa Ana Firemen’s Benevolent Association’s 204 members have had the opportunity to formally vote and provide their opinion regarding the City Manager’s proposal to contract out Santa Ana’s fire and paramedic services with the Orange County Fire Authority.”

While it is clear that the savings generated by the proposal are significant, and far more permanent than those negotiated with the Santa Ana Police Department (by Police Chief Paul Walters who also serves as Interim City Manager), it is still a sad day in the history of one of Orange County’s oldest fire departments.