BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The Bakersfield Fire Department is receiving funding support from the Measure N Oversight Committee following a meeting this month.
23ABC News spoke to the BFD Fire Chief, Anthony Galagaza about the new funding and what the department plans to do with $3.3 million, if the city council formally approves the proposal.
Galagaza said the bump in the budget is going to make a substantial difference given the fact that the BFD has been feeling the strain since 2008.
"Our resources, our personnel, due to the great recession in 2008 we had 212 firefighters out there in force and it dropped to 200," Galagaza said.
The City Manager's office told 23ABC News that the one percent sales tax oversight committee recently approved a $3.3 million funding increase for BFD and that the proposal will now move to the Bakersfield City Council on May 8.
If approved, Galagaza said the $3.3 million will be used to hire new people to fill the positions the department lost during the recession.
"What this will do is it will help us restore what we had lost during the recession but also just bolster us over the coming years as we start to receive those resources and the personnel needed to better serve the citizens of Bakersfield."
Galagaza also said this new funding will not be used for current firefighter raises.
"What this will do is it will go towards the positions needed right now that will restore, and right now in the first phase the first fiscal year we're going to receive 11 positions," Galagaza said. "Eight of those will be restored positions of positions that we have lost over time."
Galagaza said the current workload is impacting firefighter safety on the job. He said additional funding will restore manpower to four fire engines that were put out of service due to the lack of manpower funding within the current $41 million budget.
He said the average budget for other neighboring jurisdictions is $54 million a year but he said BFD has been doing less with more and additional funding will help staff members who are spread thin with the current call load.
"We can't forget our dispatchers over that time since 2005 to now have increased in their call volume 178 percent and they've kept the same personnel at that time there being overloaded and overworked and right now they can't keep up with the demand right now [for] supervisors it's tough for them to be supervisors because of the work and the call volume right now," Galagaza said.
He said during phase two of the funding allocation the department also hopes to create a new rescue squad.
"That will relieve the emergency calls that we are getting which is right now just over 25,000 a year while some of our engine companies like station six who I have used before there one of the busiest in the state, and what that means is there are up every hour of almost every night," Galagaza said. "That will allow them to stay in their first in districts instead of running from district to district."
City Manager Alan Tandy said city council will conduct a series of meetings about the current budget allocation proposal, which includes the new fire department funding along with other Measure N allocation promises.
On June 28, officials will make a final decision on where to put Measure N funds and Galagaza said he is confident the fire department will benefit from the final decision.
"City council is so aware of the situation, they are so aware of the need and they are very in touch with the Bakersfield Fire Department. They know our needs at this point in time and I know that they will vote and they will vote this in. They understand, they've done their homework," Galagaza said.