Fire brownouts moving to Alameda Point
Looks like the fire department will no longer be “browning out” its ambulance on Bay Farm Island or its West End truck when the department is short staffed. As of April 1, they’ll instead brown out the Advanced Life Support (ALS) fire engine on Alameda Point.
Fire Chief David Kapler confirmed the change, saying he thinks the potential impacts of browning out that engine will be less than losing the Bay Farm ambulance. He said the ambulance was browned out more than the department expected. The department’s ratio of ambulance to other calls is about five to one.
“We’ve been in the brownout situation for two months, and we’ve been assessing what the impacts have been. We’re trying to do it in a way that will have the least impact on the community, so we can provide the best service to the most people,” Kapler said.
Kapler said the loss of the ambulance, which has been browned out for at least one shift on 28 of the 58 days the brownouts have occurred per the firefighters’ calendar on their website, hasn’t led to a case “where anybody lost their life or there was extreme suffering because of it.” But he said that it could happen.
“Any time you’re delaying an ambulance or medical care, that possibility exists. So this move will reduce that possibility,” he said, adding that delays are possible even when the department is fully staffed.
Domenick Weaver, head of Alameda’s firefighters union, said he thinks the decision will only shift the risk created by the brownouts west. Per Weaver:
This decision has shifted the risk of increased response times primarily to the community and citizens on and near Alameda Point as well as to the members of the Coast Guard who live in the old off-base housing area. The risk to firefighters remains the same with the decreased staffing levels, and all the citizens of Alameda are subject to the overall decrease in emergency response capabilities that they are already paying for.
Weaver said that only one engine runs out of Alameda Point, so when the engine is browned out, the station is effectively browned out.
One person this engine saved is the Rev. Michael Yoshii when he had a heart attack at the old base gym, he said.
Kapler said the changes were made in consultation with the union.
He spoke to Bay Farm residents and business owners about the brownouts earlier this week.