CPF District 3 represents the counties of Del Norte, Siskiyou, Modoc, Humboldt, Trinity, Shasta, Lassen, Mendocino, Tehama, Plumas, Lake, Glenn, Butte, Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, Sierra, Yolo, Placer, Sacramento, El Dorado, San Joaquin, Amador, Calaveras, Alpine, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Mono, Merced, Mariposa, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito, Fresno, Kings, Madera, Nevada, Tulare and Inyo.

Ceres Firefighters, Local 3636 Struggle with Budget, Retention

Photo by Daniel Piedlow

After spending months working out of contract and having been denied salary increases for the better part of a decade, Ceres Professional Firefighters Association, Local 3636 is making the case for improvements before city leadership. 

In late February, the Ceres City Council considered a proposed memorandum of understanding put forward by Local 3636 that the local believed would help make firefighters whole following concessions made during the Great Recession, while also preserving response times and public safety services that residents currently enjoyed. 

“We gave up 10 percent of our pay several years ago and have gone without cost of living raises over eight years. We endured several years of frozen step increases and debilitating cuts to the fire budget,” Local 3636 President Mike Miller, told the council before they considered the proposed MOU in closed session. “Even with the deficiencies in our contract, our members are still motivated to provide our residents with premium fire protection and emergency services.”

Miller noted that the stagnant wages experienced by Ceres firefighters has allowed pay to fall equal or less than the number twelve city on the list of comparable jurisdictions. Wages have also slipped well below what is being provided to comparable or lower level roles in the city’s police department.  

As a result, the Ceres of Fire Department has developed retention issues, Miller said, as firefighters begin to pursue openings at departments that offer more stable pay and benefits. In the last two years the Ceres Fire Department has lost seven members to neighboring fire departments, creating a situation in which limited resources are being invested in employees that will eventually leave the department.

“We continue to lose personnel to neighboring agencies for better pay and opportunities at an alarming rate, resulting in large amounts of precious general fund money required to hire and train new recruits,” Miller told the council, noting that contracting out fire protection services should be considered a viable option.  

While city leadership has expressed a desire to have a contract in place by the beginning of the fiscal year, Local 3636 has yet to receive a response regarding their proposed MOU. 

Davis Ends Shared Management with University

While the City of Davis is commemorating its centennial anniversary, members of Davis Professional Firefighters, Local 3494 are celebrating the first step in getting their department back after a failed experiment in shared management with the University of California, Davis. 

The shared management structure, which was implemented in 2014 over the objections of Local 3494, came to end in early February, meaning the transition coincides rather serendipitously with another major event in the department’s history. 

“The Davis City Council held its first meeting on April 3, 1917. The reason they incorporated was that there had been a major fire, and they wanted to establish an independent fire department” said Local 3494 President Bobby Weist. “Three years ago, we gave up our fire department. To be able to get it back on the centennial is very meaningful.”

The decision to end the shared management agreement brings an end to a governance structure that drew the ire of not just local firefighters, but elected officials from around the region, who noted that operation decision would be made outside the purview of the elected representatives of the City of Davis. 

While the severing of the two departments restores that sense of local control, it does not come without its own set of problems. 

When searching for its new fire chief, Davis city leadership posted a hiring announcement advertizing a salary range that is not only the lowest in Yolo County, Weist said, but is also the lowest in the greater Sacramento Valley region.

“This is something that won’t attract the level of experience needed to lead the department,” he said, noting that the low salary could lead candidates to view the position as a stepping stone toward a better paying position elsewhere. 

“This could end up being a short-term employee for our city,” Weist said.