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In their own words: Fire Chief David Kapler

Submitted by on 1, January 26, 2009 – 8:30 amNo Comment

Alameda Fire Chief David Kapler asked The Island for the chance to respond to concerns about fire company brownouts that are scheduled to begin today and to a community group’s claim that he said, in an e-mail memo to fire staff, that the city is facing bankruptcy.

The firefighters union has voiced its strong opposition to the cuts, saying they believe they will impact the safety of those facing emergencies. At a public presentation Saturday night, Alameda firefighters union president Domenick Weaver said the companies facing closure when staffing levels fall below 27 are an ambulance on Bay Farm Island (when 25-26 firefighters are on duty) or a fire truck at the West End station on Pacific (when 24 are on duty).

Per Chief Kapler:

As Chief of the Alameda Fire Department, I would like to provide the community with clear and accurate information as it pertains to fire department “brownouts.” Recently an internal memo which I wrote found its way to a local Alameda activist group. Excerpts of my memo were altered and sent to local news media. This group quotes me as saying that the City of Alameda “is” facing bankruptcy. In fact, what is said is, “if the City of Alameda does not adjust spending, it ‘would’ be facing bankruptcy.” I have been informed by the finance director that technically the city would be facing complete depletion of general fund reserves, not bankruptcy. In either case, the end result would be far worse than is now contemplated.

To put citizens at ease, I would like to explain how the brownouts will be implemented. The Alameda Fire Department currently staffs 10 response units per day, with 27 firefighters. During brownout periods, no more than one response unit will be closed leaving nine response units in service to respond to emergencies. At no time will there be fewer than 24 firefighters on duty. No fire stations are being closed. All fire stations will remain open and staffed. Response units that are temporarily closed will be in stations that have multiple response units. Therefore, there will be very little impact on service levels or response times. In the event of a medical emergency, a paramedic will still arrive at your side within minutes. In the event of a fire, citizens will still receive the same number of response units and highly trained firefighters that they receive now. Impacts may occur when there is an unusually high level of call volume in the city, just as it does now. In fact, these new challenges have caused us to make a number of other improvements in both the city- and countywide systems that will help ensure continued quality services to our citizens.

The City of Alameda management team has been monitoring and analyzing revenues vs. expenditures and developing contingency plans for the worsening economic recession for over a year. When revenues fall below expenses, tough choices have to be made. Citizens can be pleased that due to diligence and courage, the City of Alameda is making the tough choices, and taking the necessary and prudent steps to ensure it will remain fiscally sound into the future.

If any readers have further questions regarding brown-outs or their impact, please feel free to call me at (510) 337-2100.

David Kapler
Fire Chief
City of Alameda

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