Why do exhausted firefighters refuse overtime?
Fire stations must be permanently staffed with sufficient staff.
SAN DIEGO – Some of our county’s biggest wildfires started in October, but as we head into this potentially dangerous time, local fire departments are struggling to fill shifts. Exhausted firefighters refuse overtime.
Last weekend, an engine business at Fire Station 20 was shut down for 24 hours. The reason? A lack of staff. And it’s not just a problem here in the city of San Diego, they are experiencing it all over the county and the rest of the state.
“Shutting down an engine business is our absolute last resort,” said San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowell. He added that he can’t remember the last time an engine stopped because the department didn’t have enough bodies.
“It’s really frustrating because there is no perfect solution here,” Stowell said.
Some of our crews are exhausted because they have spent weeks fighting massive fires in other parts of the state, but without a doubt, the heart of the matter is around the pandemic.
“We currently have 22 people with COVID and we have an unknown number of people on state-approved leave to care for family members who are also exhibiting COVID-like symptoms,” Chief Stowell said.
On top of that, firefighters have been called upon to act to help staff at vaccination clinics, and with those firefighters leaving fire stations, other firefighters have had to work overtime to fill shifts. The local firefighters union said it made sense for firefighters to meet this need.
“We have paramedics who give injections, drugs, daily and so if you are looking for an immediate workforce to target a public safety threat, you are absolutely going to rely on the firefighters,” said Jesse Conner. , president of San Diego Fire Department Local 145.
Conner said that in years past firefighters have generally jumped at the chance to work overtime, but that’s not the case at the moment.
“They’re just mentally and physically exhausted so they’re really enjoying taking time off right now,” Conner said.
That being said, our fire stations must be adequately staffed at all times. As a result, firefighters may be forced to work mandatory overtime and if they do not have a good excuse for refusing it, they may be subject to disciplinary action.
As for Fire Station 20, which is located in the Sports Arena area, it has not been completely closed. There was still a trucking company working there – so about half the regular staff. Fortunately, there were no major incidents during this period.
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