Firefighter shortage sparks concerns over firefighter safety and public safety
Several county fire stations have two firefighters
Last Updated: 72 days ago
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - When it comes to fires, the more hands on deck the better.
But several county fire stations only have two firefighters per shift.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends four firefighters per shift.
But several Kern County stations have half of that.
In 2009, the economic downturn caused nine county fire stations to drop the number of staff to two fire fighters per shift.
And that has caused a lot of concern.
"Number one is the safety of our firefighters, also the safety of the public is at risk," said county fire captain Bryan Rico.
Fire Captain Sean Collins said safety and manpower are the biggest concerns when you only have two firefighters per station, most of which are in outlying areas.
"When they get a major incident, a major fire or car accident they tend to be bigger and last longer than those in town because help is a long time coming," said Collins.
Having just two firefighters breaks the two in two out policy which requires two firefighters to stay outside of a burning building to act as back up while two firefighters go in and search for victims.
But if only two firefighters respond and one goes in while the other stays out..."It isn't safe to do that. We don't go in one person at a time. For the pure fact that if something happens to one person there's no assistance, we dont' know what happened. At least with a buddy, you have another backup communication and immediate assistance and immediate help," said Collins.
Rico said the public's safety is also hindered with just two firefighters.
"It makes it difficult to manage a scene when theres only two guys"
Rico said two people are not enough to fight a fire or render aid to a crash victim, keep victims out of harms way and manage the scene all at the same time.
But relief is on its way.
The federal government has approved a $6 million firefighter assistance grant which will fill 27 staff vacancies in the next couple of months and bring all the stations back upto at least 3 firefighters per shift.
"I'm excited about having that third person here. It gives us assurance that we'll get the job done to better serve the public," said Rico.
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