Firefighters' union claims staffing cut, Chief says working to fix

Chief says they're working to hire

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A Facebook post published by the Kern County Firefighters Monday evening stated "Did you know that your Kern County Fire Department may not be able to staff FIRE HANDCREWS this fire season (2018)?" As of Tuesday evening, it was shared more than 550 times.

President Derek Robinson shared a screenshot with 23ABC of an email from a battalion chief last Thursday reading "There is no funding for crew 7, 10, 11 and P-79 this summer." He says handcrews are crucial to battling wildfires.

"Those guys are on the front lines every day. They do a lot of work as far as hazard reduction and that's not getting done so it's a direct impact on public safety," said Robinson. 

KCFD Chief Brian Marshall said that information was true at the time, but KCFD has since moved money around and assigned a grant to get handcrews hired. 

"The money in the fire department has been a challenge but we are working through grant funding to hire our seasonals now," said Chief Marshall.

The Board of Supervisors approved for the KCFD to hire 80 seasonal workers. Chief Marshall said he hopes to hire all 80. His goal is to have those seasonal workers starting by May 1.

Chief Marshall also said some dozer and helicopter seasonal firefighters have already been hired and they're working to start hiring handcrews.

With increasing temperatures, Robinson wants these crews hired quickly. 

"It's going to be 90 plus degrees today and all it takes is a spark and we could be chasing fires up the hill and we don't have the support and the resources we need to fight those fires effectively," said Robinson.

With all the confusion, Robinson said he is frustrated with the mixed messages crews are getting. Chief Marshall said he's working to get the correct information to his crews. 

KCFD posted on Twitter and Facebook Tuesday evening, saying they will have fire crews available this summer. 

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