Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 8, 2013

A fire that burns

Filed under: Alameda, Public Resources — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Did anyone catch the Contra Costa Times article about Fire Engine staffing?   It was an interesting read and one that brought up a whole lot of contradictions from an Alameda standpoint.  For example, the article reported this:

Of 17 East Bay fire departments, only Oakland meets all four key national measures of adequate fire protection set by the International City/County Management Association and the National Fire Protection Association, according to a review by this newspaper.

Your eyes are not deceiving you,  the International City/County Management Association, the organization that is generally trotted out when folks want to show proof that Alameda’s Fire Department is bloated has a benchmark so high that only one of 17 East Bay fire departments meet the measure of having adequate fire protection.  And that one fire department is not Alameda’s.

Here are the benchmarks:

  • Four firefighters per engine or truck; only Oakland follows the four-person National Fire Protection Association standard. Most use three.
  • One firefighter per 1,000 people in population; just less than half of the agencies met the minimum staffing level advised by the International City/County Management Association.
  • First unit on the scene within five minutes 90 percent of the time, more than two-thirds of departments failed to meet this benchmark developed by the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA. Contra Costa Fire had the worst performance in the East Bay at an average of nine minutes, 24 seconds. With four of its 28 stations set to close Jan. 15 after the failure of a November tax measure, this response time will likely lengthen.
  • Put at least 15 trained and equipped firefighters on the scene of a single-family residential structure fire within nine minutes, 20 seconds 90 percent of the time; less than one-third of the agencies meet the National Fire Protection Association recommendation.

But here’s the kicker, with the ICMA paired with NFPA on one side as the “we need more, not less” amazingly enough arguing the other side is a consultant with Citygate who said that the benchmarks aren’t realistic:

The standards make no distinctions between population densities in rural or suburban communities and cities, said Stewart Gary, a fire services consultant with Citygate Associates and a retired Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department chief.

Oakland meets the broad standards because much of the city is flat and accessible from multiple points, but suburban districts with non-grid streets, widely spaced stations and varying topography cannot afford it, Gary explained. City fire departments also have access to a larger pool of money than special districts, which rely almost solely on property taxes.

“I wish agencies would stop applying one-size-fits-all national recommendations,” Gary said.

Citygate, on the other hand, produced a report that said that Alameda’s fire services are essentially performing well and cautioned against considering shutting down or consolidating Stations 2 and 3, but came down on the side of “every location is different and has different needs.”

And given the number of fires that occurred in Alameda just these past two months or so, I’m going to guess that the chorus singing the praises of shutting down a fire station may not be as in tune as in the past.



  1. This podcast from NPR is well worth the listen on Firefighters in Contra Costa.

    Episode 424: How Much Is A Firefighter Worth?

    Comment by John Oldham — January 8, 2013 @ 8:44 am

  2. When I read conflicting reports and statements like this I want to hear from people like Fire Chief D’Orazi. I have always appreciated his analyses and responses–often presented to the Alameda City Council–to them.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — January 8, 2013 @ 8:48 am

  3. definitely plan to listen to the pod cast later. at a glance over first ten comments or so I noted that even though they represent an array of opinion, they all seem pretty thoughtful. There is zero snark. even though the comments vary, some have accrued various numbers of thumbs up ( “like”) but in first dozen only one has one thumbs down. made me want to keep reading and listen now but I can’t. thanks John.

    Comment by M.I. — January 8, 2013 @ 10:01 am

  4. re the numbers of fire in the past 2 months ,
    winter is notorious for fire they are mostly related to electrical fire in old houses were cheap landlord have outdated electrical system and no insulation , the tenants then plug in portable heater , over load the circuit by replacing fuse of higher amp than the original , the fuse do not blow , the wire simply get red hot and catch fire inside the wall . {knobs and tube }
    Should the City force rental unit to be up to code there would not be a fraction of these fire , landord blame the tenant and get the money from the insurance .
    If you want to get an idea of the problem , simply ask Pagano and Encinal hardware or glance at the fuse dept at Home Depot it is almost always empty during cold season .
    Then in the summer we have air condition unit .
    Outdated electrical system will solve the problem ,
    the other one are candles which have cost lives in alameda , the new wax led light look just like candle and do not genereate sooth .chep and healthier .
    The reality is we do have plenty of firefighters , numbers can be interpreted in various ways , the only catch our fire fighters for the most part do not leave within the City limit lt alone a rsonable response time , most have to cross several bridges or tunnel , all which will be shut down after any eathquake by caltran until they have been inspected and deemed safe a normal 12 to 24 hours period as in 1989 . until then we are on are own . What Alameda need is a volonteer fire dept , peoples that kno the City and it’s resident
    As per their own Captain the reason Alameda Fire dept do not leave in Alameda is because they cannot afford it with a $250 000 salary and compensation , kind a strange because Berkeley firefighters some on lower pay scale can afford to leave and raise their family in Alameda ……..
    Most of the major fire in Alameda were controled by the Oakland fire dept and up to Fremont , not by Almeda AFD .

    I am looking forward the usual crowd corrcting my spelling, typos and English .

    Comment by mijoka — January 8, 2013 @ 10:49 am

  5. Mijoka:

    You wrote:

    Most of the major fire in Alameda were controled by the Oakland fire dept and up to Fremont , not by Almeda AFD .

    I believe that OFD and other Fire Departments assist under the banner of “mutual aid” to say that the fires were not controlled by Alameda Fire is an unfair assessment unless you have evidence that Alameda Fire simply did not even show up to those emergencies.

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 8, 2013 @ 11:02 am

  6. Thank you lauren ,
    Happy New Year to You and your Family ,

    Re AFD performance one has simply take a closer look at among other the small gingerbread victorian than caught fire on Minturn , The AFD responnded in masses so much indeed they could not move their equipment and to my knowledge it is the ladder from the OPD that saved the day by going in the parking lot behind just in time to save the entire block , 2 houses were destroyed the fire station is or was located 2 blocks away and there are countless other instances ,
    same on bay Farm ,
    same on the dead end street of encinal ave Pease Court I believe , they unrolled almost a block of line when they had almost direct access from the side street {I will be very happy to show you} house burned to the ground or closed to . 3 blocks from the station ,
    2 blocks from the station late night another house caught fire “candles” they spend huge amount of time trying to break the front door when everyone sleep on the back , the Mother and Daughter perished the little boy was saved by the neighbor across the street …..
    .I will never forget the day I called them fearing a fire as a thick black smoke “like a steam locomotive”was coming out ot the cheminey from a rental property I was told we are not smoke chaser” the reason for the dense black smoke was because one renter was burning styrofoam and various plastic wrapping {hummm good for the environement }
    A few weeks ago in Boston someone either jump or fell in the icy cold water , without hezitation one fireman , very much at the real risk of his life jump and saved th lady other peoples did as well , here we look at union contract to see if we can wade in the water to retrieve a man in hypothermic shock and decide no we cannot , they watch him flipp over and drown , A small Lady stripped to Her under wear and bras after sking if they would arrest her to attempt to rescue Him she waded and swam bringing back a man close os 3 times her weight and handed him over to the fire dept which did not have a defribilator in working order in the ambulance according to the inquiry , do you know in many Countries this is consirdered murder .

    To answer to your question they always answer the calls , it is their performance that is lacking it is also the opinion of the fire units responding to the mutual aid and they have a nick name for them which I cannot print here out of decency ,It is far from being glamorous do the research , you will be surprised by the result .
    Doug De Haan is not my source of informaton by the way far from it , mean very far …..sorry Mr De Haan I do not mean any “insult”
    when they have a firechief that lay down the rules they force him out one way or the other .
    This will take me to another step the Alameda Fire dept does not represent the community’s demographic either . Why ?
    The APD does .

    Comment by mijoka — January 8, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

  7. When minutes matter on medical calls, we are fortunate to live in Alameda. AFD’s emergency medical calls average 5 min, 4 sec for a paramedic engine and 5 min, 43 seconds for a paramedic ambulance. These response times far exceed the standards set by Alameda County which requires an 8 min, 30-sec response time for a paramedic engine and 10 minutes for a private paramedic ambulance. Check out this clarification in the November 2012 Alameda Sun.

    Mijoka may want to rely on the public court records instead of any former council member’s memory. Mr. Zack apparently tried committing suicide in the same location twice before he was successful. The case no. is RG12632015 in Alameda County Superior Court. There are protocols for 5150s.

    Comment by Alan — January 8, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

  8. All Court Records records are not all that flattering to Alameda Fire Department Alan. Taking shots at Mr Zack seems like your style.

    This action by the Fire Department on treating a fellow Firefighter only cost the City 600,000 for playing the AH roles.

    Vanderheiden and DelBono both again returned to work in late June 2003, and were assigned to different fire stations and different shifts so they would not have to work together. Although he was working at a different station with firefighters who had not been involved in the DelBono incident, from the beginning there was tension between Vanderheiden and his fellow firefighters who, he claims, ostracized and isolated him. For instance, Vanderheiden said that when he would walk into a room, crew members would immediately vacate the area and refuse to acknowledge him. A captain told him he should not attend the annual union ski trip because it would not be safe for him to do so. He was told by Chief Christiansen that if he continued to serve as an instructor in the water rescue program, other firefighters might leave the program. He stated that one captain announced to a class that he never wanted Vanderheiden in his station or on his rig, and that a fellow firefighter went from station to station calling Vanderheiden a dead man.

    Comment by John — January 9, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

  9. Alan, What are the protocols on statements and actions like this .

    “He stated that one captain announced to a class that he never wanted Vanderheiden in his station or on his rig, and that a fellow firefighter went from station to station calling Vanderheiden a dead man.”

    Comment by John — January 9, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

  10. Alan , from which station do you work from …..
    I was merely comparing the courage of Boston firefighters which did not hesitate one second to jump in a frezzing deadly water at that time of the year and our braves which found convenient an obscure contract not to enter water , all because they did not get their raise , and yes they were legally right , morally they are the joke of the entire bay area firefighters , ” one of the joke going around the various station is , if you get one of them make sure to give them an umbrella ”
    As far as theb Alameda sun report you are quoting , an average ride in the Ambulance is $1600 , no wonder they made 2 millions , this is a far cry from paying their $250 000 annual wages since they they diospatch 5 to 6 men for every call .
    thios was the reason no private ambulance co wanted to step in last year , it might be a very different story in the years to come , the AFD criticized the quality of the private ambulance , yet have no querel using it for themselves while “injured at work” .
    Aside of Mr Zack with an history of suicide , or threat of , what was wrong on the dirty business between mr Delbono and Vanderheiden ? like to clarify that one , next can you explain why the AFD is mostly caucasian , they would not have prejudice would they …..
    What Alameda need is real Peoples that really put their life on the line every day for several years , and I bet you if we had a volonteer firecrew they would be fighting and assisting peoples long before the AFD finished their donught , Jobs for our veterans , they will fly the Americam Flag proudly and in honor , not as a piece of decoration .

    Comment by mijoka — January 9, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

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