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December 6, 2023

Letter: City is committed to fire department

On Sept. 23, the labor union representing Gilroy Firefighters (IAFF, Local 2805) released a letter asking for the community’s help. In that letter, the City was asked to “increase the number of firefighters on duty per day from nine to 12 to serve ALL parts of the city fairly and equitably.” Simply put, the union is asking the City to provide full-time staffing at the Santa Teresa District fire station. 

On Sept. 26, the City issued an open letter to the Gilroy community in response to the Gilroy Firefighters’ letter. The letter may be found on the City’s website with a link on the front page, and can be directly accessed at tinyurl.com/3utwjhbe. 

The Gilroy City Administrator and Gilroy Fire Chief are dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of all Gilroyans. The City’s current labor contract with Local 2805 is to have a minimum of nine firefighters on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The City often exceeds that minimum and, at times, has 12 firefighters on duty—especially during peak times (most notably wildland fire seasons). It is management’s duty to ensure that coverage is provided throughout the City when needed and that these decisions are justified by the service demand and available qualified personnel while utilizing resources within the City’s current budget. 

Determining the necessary resources for medical response and fire protection is based largely on the call volume for each fire station. The City has four fire stations. With only 6% of the City’s service demand, it would not be prudent to mandate that the Fire Chief staff the Santa Teresa station full-time. 

The City has routinely staffed the Santa Teresa station with at least two firefighters for 12 hours a day during the peak call times of 8am to 8pm. Staffing the Santa Teresa station during times of low service demand (only 6% of the City’s call volume) is not fiscally responsible. Consistent with the City’s commitment to ensure service levels, the City’s Fire Chief will continue to upstaff that station when the call volume dictates or during wildland fire danger consistent with the data. 

The City’s total investment in the Gilroy Fire Department over four years is approximately $7.9 million, and an additional $2.7 million has been allocated in overtime in fiscal years 2022, 2023 and 2024. 

We are proud of our Fire Department as they provide a high level of service and achieve great results, including one of the nation’s highest cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) save rates. Nationally, the CPR save rate is only 3%. In Santa Clara County, the CPR save rate increases to 6%. The City of Gilroy fire department has an astonishing 60% CPR save rate. Our department is a model for others to follow. 

The City welcomes a healthy discussion about the status of our fire department. Addressing specific issues allows for better performance and better patient outcomes. There are many variables in providing fire protection and medical services—minimum staffing is just one of them.

Jimmy Forbis is the Gilroy City Administrator and Jim Wyatt is the Gilroy Fire Chief.

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