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March 17, 2010 > Letter to the editor: Misconceptions about Union City Fire Department merger

Letter to the editor: Misconceptions about Union City Fire Department merger

In response to "Merger will reduce services to community" (Letters to the Editor, March 10 issue), it is clear there is a lot of misinformation in the community about the proposal for Union City Fire Department (UCFD) to consolidate with the Alameda County Fire Department (ACFD).

Consolidations in the fire service succeed because of the reduction of administrative and overhead positions. It is efficient and it increases service levels. At one time in 2007, UCFD had six chief officers on duty on any given weekday for 13 firefighters, a ratio of one chief for every two firefighters. This was expensive and not necessarily effective. By utilizing a regional response model, Union City's citizens will receive the same initial response levels as they do today. Additionally, they will receive enhanced response capabilities from ACFD's greater depth of resources, chief officers and specialty response units (e.g. Heavy Rescue).

If consolidation occurs, Union City and Newark firefighters will operate on the same dispatch channel which will decrease response times and increase operational capabilities. We shall operate seamlessly as one operational battalion and will have access to seven fire companies, increasing the total number of firefighters immediately available from 12 to 21.

As a Company Officer who responds to and manages emergencies in Union City, I've experienced first-hand the budget reductions that have resulted in a lack of resources and capabilities in UCFD. These same resources would be restored and enhanced without increasing costs by joining ACFD.

ACFD has shown they are responsive to each community's needs. The fact is, local jurisdictions determine their service levels and budget adjustment and reduction strategies for ACFD to meet. When the City of San Leandro asked for ACFD to participate in expenditure-reduction measures to address the current budget crisis, they did so in a way that avoided negative impacts to the services provided to San Leandro residents or other communities served by ACFD.

Union City firefighters stand to take pay cuts and the loss of seniority should a consolidation occur. However, our number one concern is to continue to provide the best fire protection and emergency medical services delivery from four operating fire stations. Should a consolidation not happen, it is very likely that firefighters will be laid off and a fire station may close, which benefits nobody.

John Whiting
Union City Firefighters Local 1946

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