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Firefighters Talk About Not Fighting Fires

NPR reporters spent some time riding around with Concord firefighters for a story on the question of fire station funding and pensions.

Do firefighters actually fight fires anymore?

Not really, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Fire departments respond to 40 percent fewer fires now than they did 30 years ago, thanks to building and materials upgrades. There aren't as many fires and yet fire departments still retain the bulky trucks, many stations and expensive firefighting staff. Add six-figure pensions to the total bill, and the question arises: What happens when your heroes cost too much?

NPR reporters headed out to Concord for an answer.

What they found was that instead of battling flames, firefighters respond mostly to emergency calls for paramedics. Don Johansen of Concord's fire station 6 told NPR he'd rather be fighting fires than responding to medical calls, which sometimes require little or no action from the team and none at all from the hefty fire truck outside.

That's an expense that Contra Costa County taxpayers decided in the Nov. 6 election they wouldn't be willing to fund. Measure Q failed — shocking the fire fighting community who thought it would be an easy pass, according to NPR — and now de-staffed or shut down to offset a budget deficit.

So what's a firefighter worth these days? NPR asks. Listen to the story online here.

How do you think firefighters should be funded? Does the pension system need to change? Should stations be shut down and fire trucks retired? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Lawrence Risner December 20, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Between the reliance to survive on social security income with the increases of the cost of living - including medicare which by the way cancels out the social security increases for most and also keep their "while they worked and paid for their home" - proposition 13 has allowed many seniors to stay in their homes. In these difficult times it might be a thought to have those "rolling in the tax collected dough" (elected officials and over paid public service retirees) to cut back some also! Seems they are the only ones not effected by the poor economy!
Cindy December 20, 2012 at 05:24 PM
The problem is not falling property taxes...that has happened throughout time thru good & bad years. The problem lies with Supervisors who failed to do their job. When property taxes were rising as values went up they should not have "assumed" this would continue....because it never has. Plain & Simple they failed to plan. It is no different then a person who starts to receive a "bonus" for several years straight decides to commit the income to a long term expense. When the economy falters so does the bonus and now this person is in trouble because "they" failed to plan for a guaranteed bad day. That is simple fools thinking. As a taxpayer I am willing to commit tax dollars to a prudent and well thought out budget but that is not what we have. That is not what we have and so adjustments must be made. If the Public employees want those generous benefits then start paying for them from your paychecks and stop expecting others to pay your way. The private sector has faced this realty many years ago and now it is time for the public employees to do the same. Remember there are thousands of private sector employees who would take you job for less generous benefits starting now.
common sense December 22, 2012 at 07:09 AM
Financial burden is right, correct me if I am wrong but "health care after retirement" is a perk for the fire department. How many of you can say you have that benefit? For the 6 figure pensions many get, you would think they could afford health care on their own. You know like the rest of us!
common sense December 22, 2012 at 07:25 AM
You are right ....we have prop 13 to thank for some of us being able to still own a home. "E" you don't have a clue! Prop 13 has saved many peoples homes that are on a fixed retirement income, you know the ones that DID NOT retire from CCCFD at 6 figures. Some pension reform is in the works, but only for new hires. So stop with the "Tea Party" crap! So when did or when will you retire from the CCCFD??? PENSIONS are the problem 3% @ 50 for "safety" workers is killing this state!!
Roland Sprewell December 27, 2012 at 04:25 AM
Are the cops being asked to surrender the same pensions and "high pay" as firefighters? Just wondering, because when we these discussions come up, I don't hear anyone saying that the police have over-inflated pensions and salaries and reducing the number of patrol cars. The NPR story was titled: How Much Are Firefighters Worth?" I"m not saying that reform is not needed, but if firefighters are now going to be the targets of snipers and cut down by whack jobs lying in wait with Bushmaster, semi-automatic assault rifles, then I would say that firefighters are worth as much as cops!!

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