Administration, Union at odds on 21st Century Fire Department plan

Mayor Carlo DeMaria announced this week he will hire 20 new members of the Everett Fire Department (EFD) to create a new Fire-based ambulance service, but members of the Fire Union say they have been completely left out of the plan for their Department.
In an op-ed posted on Social Media, Mayor DeMaria said after reading an article last week about low staffing levels in the EFD, he was compelled to release his plan for the City’s first-ever Emergency Medical Service (EMS) that would be based out of the Fire Department.
“While there will always be a need for fire suppression in the City, the Administration has thoroughly studied how to better serve our residents based on the type, frequency, and level of calls received by the Everett Fire Department over the past five years,” wrote the mayor. “The analysis of the data has resulted in a strategic plan that will fill the vacancies in the Everett Fire Department and establish Everett’s own fire-based EMS service for the first time in our history. This plan calls for new hires to be trained at the BLS (basic life support/EMT) level. With this, the City will be able to operate our own ambulance service solely for Everett residents. In turn, the response time of EMS services in our City will significantly decrease.”
The mayor wrote that while the EFD responds to all medical calls, but cannot transport those in need of services. Under the mayor’s new plan, the Fire Department would be able to transport residents through a new City ambulance service.
“Over the past six months, the Administration has worked diligently to develop this strategic plan,” he wrote. “The investment of time in crafting this thoughtful approach will result in a fire department that meets the 21st Century needs of our City. We are currently in the final stages of hiring the necessary personnel to execute this plan.”
Fire Union President Craig Hardy said his union has asked for and supported a fire-based ambulance service for years, but he said they have yet to be invited to the table to talk about this new proposal.
“We’ve been asking for an ambulance like that for the last five or 10 years,” said Hardy. “We’ve said that and we support that, but we need to be in the discussions…They went out to hire two or three times and cancelled it. He’s been reviewing this strategic plan for the last six months he said. We’ve been trying to talk about it for two months. We need to be part of the process…If he thinks 20 new EMS hires will be hired and go on an ambulance and it will be easy – it’s not that simple. We’re for it, but we need to hire first in the Department and then for an ambulance we need another 16 men.”
Hardy said their calls are up significantly over the last few years.
In a report from Chief Tony Carli, total calls for service went form 5,797 in 2016 to 6,581 in 2019. Most of the increase came from more medical aid calls, and also an increase in the number of fire calls.
Hardy said at the same time, they have not hired any new personnel in five years, leaving the staffing levels very low and the morale in the dumpster. Adding people out injured and on leave for COVID-19, he said staffing over the holidays has been a huge hit to morale.
He said a lot of the mayor’s plan in the op-ed was “fluff,” and the Fire Department restructuring shouldn’t be blamed for the lack of hiring over the last five years.
“We have men who went into work today (Tuesday) and won’t be home until after Christmas because we don’t have the manpower to replace them,” he said. “I’m told by those working they looked so defeated. We’ll have the minimum staffing on the pieces, but it’s people there against their will. We have injuries and COVID-19 and other things no addressed or calculated in that 21st Century Fire Department plan. We have people working in the firehouses the next four days, away from their families on Christmas, because there is no one to come in and replace them…As he stated in the article, we are there and ready and protecting the city, but we’re getting worn out. We don’t need to be blamed also for not hiring because of an ambulance plan. He’s not been hiring for another reason.”
Hardy said while the Fire Department is understaffed historically, and out of contract for the last 18 months, the Police Department has seen new hires and has a good contract. He hoped the mayor would work more collaboratively with the union on this and other issues, he said.
Meanwhile, at Monday night’s City Council meeting, the spark that has ignited the Fire Department flame came up in an agenda item put forth by Councilor Fred Capone.
Capone said during budget times he noticed staffing seemed thinner than in previous years. He said he has heard from the Department they need more people and he’d like to get a better idea of what’s happening. He said the ambulance plan sounds good, but he also requested to get detailed information about overtime and hiring – noting that younger firefighters are going to leave the Department if they’re worked into the ground.
“I think it’s unrealistic to think you’ll hit the ground running on an ambulance service when you have such a shortage on the current Fire Department,” said Capone.
He asked for detailed information to be delivered by the next meeting on things such as total number of firefighters, total overtime, and overtime by firehouse. The request was approved unanimously by the Council.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *