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Fire Station Brownouts Begin Monday – Alameda Fire Chief Un-apologetic

In a KCBS 740 radio interview yesterday, Alameda Fire Chief Dave Kapler responded to the news that rotating fire stations closures will begin in Alameda next Monday, January 26.

In case you missed it, at the January 6, 2009 Alameda City Council meeting, Alameda firefighters association president Domineck Weaver addressed the Council with regards to the brownouts, and alleged that the fire chief’s report to City Council was doctored and censored, and that the fire chief “is being edited, censored and (is) virtually under the thumb of the City Manager and her agenda.” Mr. Weaver alleged that the edited fire chief report forwarded from the City Manager’s office to City Council downplayed the potential negative to Alameda residents of the brownouts.

Listen to Mr. Weaver’s comments to council here:

Meanwhile, a January 13th e-mail from Chief Kapler to the fire department was leaked to Action Alameda News. In the email, the Chief acknowledges that Measure P – which was passed last November under the banner “Protect Vital Services” – will not provide enough funding to stave off brownouts, and acknowledges that the City is on a path to bankruptcy unless it can cut costs.

Full text of email from Alameda Fire Chief David Kapler to the Alameda Fire Department:

From: David Kapler

To: FIRE

Date: 1/13/2009 11:26 AM

Subject: Brown Outs

To All Members,

After months of waiting, it is now clear that brown outs will begin later this month. We have been anticipating that brown outs would occur ever since the 2008/09 was adopted in June of 2008. We just weren’t sure when. There was hope that Proposition P would make up the difference. It is now evident that Prop P will not generate enough money this year to make up the difference. It is helping to stave off further cuts.

I know there is a lot of disappointment that it has become necessary to implement brownouts. Some probably think it could have been avoided or should have been avoided. Those feelings are further complicated and felt more deeply by the long history of cuts and financial turmoil that always affect the Department. I know there are many factors at play and it is hard to sort it all out. However, at this point in time, the adopted budget is the budget.

Setting aside history, the current economic situation (local, state and federal) is what is forcing this move. If the City does not adjust spending, it would be facing bankruptcy in as little as 36 – 48 months. If that were to happen the impact to the Department and its members would be much worse than temporary brownouts.

By coincidence, last week just before the Council meeting, I received a phone call from a fire captain in the SAC Valley area.

His department has been through this. He told me that from their experience we either do the brownouts now or face lay offs later. We are not alone in this.

While we have been making an argument for the past year to hire personnel to fill the unfunded positions, right now it is a blessing that those positions were not filled. As it is, we are able to make adjustments by reducing overtime. If those positions had been filled, we would be facing lay offs.

Brownouts are expected to begin on January 26, 2009. We are working on an implementation plan to have as little impact on our members and on service levels as possible. We intend to role this plan out later this week. In a nut shell, when staffing is at 27 or better, everything will remain staffed. When staffing is at 25 or 26, 2794 will be closed. When staffing is at 24, 2772 will be closed. There will never be more than one unit browned out at a time. We are not changing our initial response to fires. On days that the truck is closed, we will add an engine to first alarm assignments to maintain an 18 person response.

We will get through this. Looking at historical data, the impact to the citizens will be minimal. I am not saying there is “no” impact. We are requesting more data to further understand the potential impacts. There will be an impact on the Department, as well. For one, you will be busier. The same call volume is spread across one less unit. There will be impacts on an already busy schedule for training and other programs. Our challenge remains to do the best, and deliver the best service we can with the resources we have. The Alameda Fire Department has always served this community with pride and excellence. You can take even more pride in knowing you are continuing to give your best even when faced with a company closure. The community will notice and appreciate your commitment to serving them. Many of whom are having to dig deeper into their pockets to keep us all employed. I am grateful that we are able to accomplish this adjustment without any loss of jobs, payor benefits. This is way better than many people are experiencing.

Thank you for your service in these tough times.

Chief Kapler

David A. Kapler

Fire Chief

Alameda Fire Department

1300 Park St.

Alameda, CA 94501

(510) 337-2100

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