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WEST VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS

SANTA PAULA : Chief's Plan to Hire More Firefighters Faces Council Test

August 07, 1995|CHRISTINA LIMA

Five full-time firefighters are needed for the Santa Paula Fire Department to continue providing the emergency services residents need, says Fire Chief Paul Skeels.

While the population of the city has increased, the Fire Department has continued to operate with only three full-time employees and about 20 part-timers, Skeels said.

By hiring five full-time firefighters, Skeels said, the city would be able to staff its two fire stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, the Fire Department does not have a round-the-clock worker at one of its stations.

The City Council is scheduled to review Skeels' recommendations during its meeting today.

City Engineer Norm Wilkinson said he has recommended that the council hire the additional full-time firefighters because residents often try to rescue victims before firefighters arrive at the scene of a fire.

"Several times, we have had residents and police officers running into a fire scene looking for a victim without any breathing protection," Wilkinson said. "That's a concern for the city."

Firefighters are required to live or work within five minutes' driving time of one of the department's two stations. One is on South 10th Street and the other is on West Main Street.

In the case of a 911 fire call, police dispatchers alert firefighters, who go to one of the stations, get the fire engines and race to the scene.

Skeels said he also is asking the city to add 10 part-timers to the department.

Part-time employees are trained by the city and are paid when they respond to a fire, Skeels said.

In addition, the Santa Paula Firefighters Assn., which is made up of all the part-timers, is negotiating a new contract with the city. The city is scheduled to sign the contract with the association during a closed session today.

Officials would not comment on the details of the proposed contract.

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