Winters Fire Department to hire full-time engineer

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At the Dec. 3 City Council meeting, Fire Chief Brad L. Lopez came before the council with a request to add a fifth full-time firefighter to the department, which currently consists of Lopez and three fire captains, in addition to a secretary. The new employee would fulfill a fire engineer position—which means he or she would be able to operate a fire engine and enable the department to make better use of its workforce.

The full-time fire engineer will work 40 hours per week as a “qualified and dedicated driver operator to a Captain,” and will allow greater mobilization of current staff and volunteers. The engineer will also aid in administrative tasks, such as training, fire prevention, inspections, public education and maintenance.

Lopez said his department required the engineer because, it’s a combination fire department—one reliant on career (staff), reserve and volunteer firefighters.

“This will allow the Captain to safely supervise the engine company personnel and provide direction on emergency scenes. Having a dedicated driver operator on shift will allow for better utilization and deployment of our resources when staffing allows by cross staffing units during peak times and fire season,” Lopez said.

For years WFD has suffered a steady decrease in volunteer firefighters, with a 29-percent decrease between 2008 and 2018. Lopez said the decrease was due largely to additional training requirements and time commitments.

While the addition of a new employee will help the department meet the demands it faces from limited resources, Lopez said the lack of volunteers would still need to be addressed.

“With population of Winters increasing and volunteerism decreasing, we need to do something to increase volunteers as we move forward,” Mayor Bill Biasi said. “As times have changed we have to change with them.”

The cost to the city of the new employee will be in accordance to this fiscal year’s budget: $45,600 between March and June next year. The funds will be paid for through reductions and reallocation of the current budget period, Lopez said the department would need an increase to its budget next fiscal year.

“The fire department has made a budget adjustment with a reallocation of Reserve/Volunteer Stipend Funds and reductions to the Operations and Maintenance budget in order to absorb the associated costs in funding this position,” Lopez said in the staff report. The council unanimously approved the request. The application period for the position begins Dec. 19 and will end Jan. 3 next year. It will include a written examination, physical agility test, oral panel interviews, interviews with Lopez, and finally, end with a conditional offer for a start date in March 2020. Consideration will be limited to the first 50 applicants.]]>

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