Firefighters will fill dual roles

A plan to save the city up to $2.5 million annually by transitioning more firefighters into dual paramedic roles was made final this week.

The City Council on Tuesday approved an amendment to the Glendale Firefighters' Assn. contract that sets into motion a plan to place two firefighter/paramedics on all nine engine companies in an effort to expand the Basic Life Support program. Officials said the plan would help offset 21 firefighter positions that will be eliminated through attrition over the next two years.

Since 2008, the Glendale Fire Department has cut 17 positions, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said.

"This would be an additional 21 positions, so the fiscal impact will be well over $2 million," he added.

Facing a massive city budget deficit and the eventual loss of 38 positions, the Fire Department proposed changes in May to its rescue services, including hiring 60 emergency medical technicians to work 12-hour shifts for the Basic Life Support program to avoid incurring overtime. Because they are hourly, the 60 EMTs are slated to cost the city less than the 38 salaried positions, city officials said.

At the same time, officials developed the Paramedic Engine program, which moves 18 firefighter/paramedics onto the department's engines in an effort to expand advanced life support coverage throughout the city.

Councilman Rafi Manoukian remained the only opposing vote on Tuesday, saying he has always disagreed with the program.

"In principal, I don't know if the program will work the way it's planned to work," he said. "I hope it does, but I opposed the program from the beginning."

Six sworn positions, including an engine or truck company and a rescue ambulance, currently respond to emergency calls. The new plan would reduce the number of sworn positions to four, but the crew will be accompanied by a rescue ambulance staffed with hourly ambulance operators.

Under the paramedic program, the 18 firefighter/paramedics, who include fire engineers and captains, will see in an 8% to 15% increase in pay starting Jan. 1 because of the added paramedic duties, Scoggins said.

Engineers and captains will fill the engine positions from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2013, because the Fire Department currently doesn't have enough firefighter/paramedics, Scoggins said.

Once the 18-month period ends, engineers and captains will return to regular pay, he said, adding that "there is a lot of transition happening with the plan."