Fullerton is hosting one of the first major discussions about potentially disbanding their fire department and joining the regional Orange County Fire Authority on Tuesday night.
The fire authority claims that by switching, Fullerton could save nearly $5.8 million each year, up to nearly $29 million by June 2025.
But as they’re claiming the city has massive savings just over the horizon, Placentia is leaving because they think they can do better on their own without the authority.
While the conversation on joining the fire authority began in March 2020, this is the first report released to the public by the city on the actual cost savings.
If approved, all firefighters of the Fullerton Fire Department would be folded into the fire authority’s staffing for the city. Any other employees would be hired or fired at the discretion of their new employer.
The city would also retain ownership of its fleet of fire engines, leasing them to the fire authority for free after they take over, and maintaining their existing fire stations throughout the city.
If the city decides to move forward with the plan, the OC Fire Authority would take over services around four months after any contract is signed.
Fullerton’s push to join the agency comes as one of the first after Placentia announced it was leaving the fire authority in July 2020, ending a year-long fight between the city and the fire department.
Under Placentia’s own new fire department, the city is projecting to save millions every year, using a model that uses private paramedics to transport patients instead of the firefighter-paramedic plan the rest of the county’s fire departments use.
For the OC Fire Authority, paramedics come in on the firetruck, but then leave with the contracted private ambulance, taking that engine offline during that transfer.
The fire authority argued that the new model is dangerous because paramedics can’t rush into burning buildings, but the city plans to use private ambulances to handle emergency medical calls, leaving its engines free to respond to more dangerous situations.
During the switch, Placentia city manager Damien Arrula argued that because structure fires represent such a small percentage of their calls, the paramedic response model will save the city time and resources.
Placentia police officers also alleged misconduct by the fire authority following the city’s departure from the agency back in June 2019.
The Fullerton City Council will review the item at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in a study session prior to the city council meeting.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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