For Immediate ReleasePress Contact: Debra Pryor, Fire Department, (510) 981-5500
CITY OF BERKELEY’S FIRE SAFETY INVESTMENT
Berkeley, California (Monday, December 18, 2006) - Federal and state budget cuts combined with increased employee pension costs in the last three years have seriously affected local governments, reducing community programs and services to balance city budgets.
One notable exception has been Berkeley, where the City government promotes public safety through fire prevention and earthquake safety measures to reduce risk throughout the community. Most notable is the fact that the City has increased the Fire Department’s budget by 35.5% (from $18.1 million in 2003 to $24.8 million in 2007) in the last three years to preserve community safety and protect its residents while other programs and services were cut.
The increases the City provided result from rapidly rising salary and retirement costs for employees. The key to restoration of fire protection services remains with containing those costs. The City Council adopted a two-year budget July, 2005, and included ample funding for public safety, with substantial investment for fire season necessities like extra patrols in hills’ area.
This budget plan was agreed upon by all the involved participants in the City’s process, including the fire fighters’ union.
With the recent close of the fire season, the City instituted its longstanding, flexible deployment plan for the Fire Department. The department flexibly assigns staff to each of its seven stations according to the number of people available to work, given vacation schedules and unexpected illness.
Public safety is always maintained at the highest level with these efforts with all City seven fire stations open.
In addition, the Department’s response time to calls for service is maintained throughout the year without compromising safety.
Indeed, the City’s seven fire stations represent the highest regional concentration of facilities as compared with neighboring cities, amply covering Berkeley’s 10.2 square miles with excellent fire protection and emergency medical assistance.