By Erica Madison
In a telephone interview with Alameda’s acting Deputy Fire Chief Daren Olson, the Deputy Chief said the Fire department’s budget cuts in no way impacted their decision to watch 52-year-old Raymond Zack drown.
For a week now the fire department has been stating that the surface water rescue program which was cancelled in 2009, prevented the firefighters from entering the water. But subsequently, Action Alameda News revealed documentation showing that fire department did have a budget set aside for water rescues.
“We do have money for the year 2011-2012, which was put into the budget before the incident (drowning) happened, said Deputy Fire Chief Olson.
When Deputy Fire Chief Olson was asked if this program was what prevented firefighters from entering the water he said no.
“The man was fully clothed and about 100 yards out. It was hard for us to evaluate him (Raymond Zack). We didn’t know if he was dangerous.”
It seems the new official statement regarding this tragedy is not to blame it on finances, but on Alameda County EMS protocol, which gives a person who is a competent adult the right to refuse medical attention.
So even though the firefighters on the scene were unable to evaluate Mr. Zack from 100 yards out in the bay, the firefighters were still able to evaluate his state of mind as he stood fully clothed in the water.
Nevertheless, Deputy Fire Chief Olson did say that the Fire department is working on changing how future incidents are handled.
The surface water rescue program will provide the training firefighters need to become certified for water rescue. The money set aside for this program is for the program only. Firefighters who receive training will not receive a pay increase.
“They’re firefighters, and they’re not going to get paid more for doing their job”, said Deputy Fire Chief Olson.