San Jose Councilman’s Proposed Firefighter Hiring Freeze Angers Fire Chief

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San Jose firefighters (Craig Rose/San Jose Fire Dept.)

San Jose firefighters (Craig Rose/San Jose Fire Dept.)

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SAN JOSE (KCBS) — A proposal by a San Jose city councilman to freeze firefighter hiring until the firefighter union accepts a reduced pension benefit has sent shock waves though the fire department and drawn the ire of its outgoing chief.

Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio’s proposed the hiring freeze in a memorandum to the city council.

San Jose Fire Department Chief William McDonald said they already have one of the lowest staffing ratios for cities of San Jose’s size.

“The average in those top 25 population cities is over one firefighter per thousand. We have .65 firefighters per thousand. We have right around one million in population and we have 678 firefighters and so we are well below the average,” he said.

Any hiring freeze would severely cripple the department, McDonald said.

“We wouldn’t able to staff our companies in the manner that we need to ensure that we could respond quickly to emergencies. So we would not be able to keep our staffing levels at the levels they should be on a daily basis,” he said.

Presently the San Jose Fire Department has to brown-out fire companies every day. A fire department brown-out is when an engine or company is taken out of service to be redistributed to other companies.

McDonald, who has served the department since 2009, announced on June 13 that he will be leaving later this summer to serve as the fire chief in Las Vegas.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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