Fred S. McChesney, a professor of law and economics at the University of Miami, wrote an intelligent opinion for the Washington Post on Sept. 4. “Fewer fires, so why are there far more firefighters?” posits that many cities and towns would be better off with volunteer fire companies for infernos considering that “rapid improvements in fire safety have caused a dramatic drop in the number of blazes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.”
Instead, many towns and cities face huge rising costs for salaries and benefits to cover crews who mostly spend their time on standby waiting for a medical call. In Idyllwild’s case, as well as most areas, fires account for less than 5 percent of the staff’s time.
So the name “fire” should be taken out of the equation. Staff mostly are emergency medical responders and should be called paramedics or EMTs. Why? According to Dr. McChesney, the median wage for a paramedic in 2012 was $31,020.
One IFPD engineer in 2013 received $135,552 just in wages. In fact, the lowest wage earner — before the chief — earned $89,093. Four earned more than the chief that year.
IFPD is primarily a paramedic/EMT outfit. But IFPD titles its staff engineers, captains, chief and firefighters. No paramedics or EMTs. Compare that to Julian/Cuyamaca FPD. In the same 2013 State Controller’s report, its staff were either EMTs or paramedics. No one is called a firefighter.
Shouldn’t IFPD be naming staff by their duties and re-evaluating the wages you taxpayers are dishing out of your pockets instead of considering increasing the lining in its own pockets? I say if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.
Becky Clark, Editor