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Fire Service Career News

FDNY's new entrance exam will lower physical standards
The FDNY has instituted changes to its entrance exam that critics charge will water down standards even more than the hiring of a female firefighter who flunked a fitness test. Acting on the recommendations of a consultant, PSI Services, the FDNY is reducing the number of exercises that simulate pulling down a ceiling. It is also having supervisors use videos to evaluate trainees not on the time it takes to perform tasks, but on "a minimally acceptable pace of performance." One FDNY veteran said those changes make little sense. "The reason they developed a time standard was to make sure standards remain high and are trusted," said the veteran. "A subjective standard would undermine that trust." PSI also urged the department to reorder the tasks in its functional skills test to "reduce the cumulative fatigue that would occur for a recruit."

San Bernardino firefighters leaving city in record numbers
If the reservoir of veteran firefighters in the city developed a leak in the Great Recession and the crack widened with the 2012 bankruptcy filing, then it's in 2015 that the dam broke. Frustrated employees in both the Police and Fire departments have warned for years that actions city officials were taking to try to get the insolvent city on sustainable financial footing were leading unsustainable numbers of seasoned police and firefighters to look to other agencies for work – endangering public safety. Both departments reduced staffing in past years, but now, with working conditions imposed as part of the bankruptcy process limiting the compensation of both groups, they're trying with mixed success to hire faster than employees leave. Firefighters, particularly, have fled in 2015. According to numbers provided by the city's Human Resources Division, 10 firefighters have stopped working for the city in the past five months – more than the previous four years combined, and more than triple the average for 2005-2014. That's nearly one-tenth of a force that employed 112 fire safety employees on the last day of 2014, according to Human Resources Division Manager Helen Tran. One of those reluctant departures is Nathan Cooke, a battalion chief who transferred from San Bernardino to a fire department in the South Bay after years of resisting what he called a sense of constant threat and under appreciation. "We waited and we waited and we held on as long as we could to continue to serve the community," said Cooke, echoing many firefighters who lament that it's gone from a 'dream department' to an unpleasant stepping stone. "I think you're going to see a mass exodus from the city of San Bernardino Fire Department. First and foremost, the morale is the lowest I've ever seen it, and I was there approximately 15 years."

San Bernardino could privatize fire services
The city might become the first in the state to rely on a for-profit firm for firefighting and emergency medical services, but to do so it will have to overcome opposition that's already mounting up and down the state. The City Council committed Monday night in a 6-1 vote to a plan that includes contracting out for those services — and depends on $7 million to $10 million in projected savings from that move to help the city's bankruptcy exit plan survive — and proposals from interested groups were due at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The bids themselves won't be made public until the week before the June 15 meeting at which the council will be asked to vote on the proposal, according to city spokeswoman Monica Lagos, but a private firm called Centerra was one of three participants at a May 5 meeting designed to give information to potential bidders. The others were the San Bernardino County Fire Department and the Colton Fire Department, which shares resources with the Loma Linda Fire Department. Even before Monday's vote, the head of the union representing San Bernardino County firefighters, Jim Grigoli, spent Monday in Sacramento rallying opposition to the move. "I'd be doing the same if this was Orange County ... and I think you will have the California Professional Firefighters standing against this 100 percent, and (union) locals from all of the state," Grigoli said by phone. "You're talking about public safety. You're crossing a fine line when you do that with a private company." City officials have made a long, often-contested effort to outsource fire services, and City Manager Allen Parker received in August permission to begin discussions with other entities that could take over in the city.

New Reno Budget Allows for New Firefighters and Police Officers
The Reno City Council and Redevelopment Agency Board have approved adopting a $492.5 million Reno budget for Fiscal Year 2015/2016 (FY 15/16), including tax levies and the adoption of a fee schedule. The FY 15/16 General Fund budget, or expenditures, is $168.4 million, an increase of about $7 million compared to the FY 14/15 adopted figure of $161.5 million. The formal budget adoption comes after three earlier budget workshops and completion of a citizen input process on budget priorities. Council also approved Special Assessment District fees and the Redevelopment Agency budgets. The FY 15/16 Reno adopted budget puts increased emphasis on public safety while maintaining reserve levels, beginning funding of long-term liabilities, and continuing to pay down debt. Ten firefighters and 12 police officers will be hired as part of the new budget. 32 of the recommended 53 additional full-time equivalent positions added to the organization will be in the area of public safety. The projected General Fund Balance for FY 15/16 will be 7%, marking the third consecutive fiscal year that this number has been within the goal of between 7% and 8.3%. According to a news release, fund balance reserves are critically important for cashflow purposes at the beginning of the fiscal year when revenues have not yet been realized to offset expenses. Reno continues to target debt reduction. The city's total debt stands at $518 million, which has decreased more than $100 million from the 2009 high point, which was $648 million. KOLO-TV ABC 8 -

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