Hoquiam Firefighters Union voices concerns over layoffs affecting community safety

Hoquiam Fire Fighters are Voicing their Concerns Over recent reductions in service. The city earlier this month laid off 4 firefighters, citing a decrease in ambulance billing and call volume. Local 315 Union President Doug Stankavich tells us recent policy changes have not only limited staffing, they are beginning to affect the departments ability to respond because the department cannot call in off duty firemen. The department issued the following press release yesterday.

The Hoquiam Fire Department, and more specifically its firefighters, have unfairly come under fire recently and it is time to set the record straight. The fact of the matter is the citizens of Hoquiam are not as safe as they used to be.

While all other city employees, both union and non-union, accepted a 1.5% raise beginning January 1, 2014, Hoquiam Fire Fighters have worked extremely hard on a contract proposal that will save the taxpayer money while maintaining all positions, including the four that have been irresponsibly laid off.

Hoquiam politicians cite a 10% reduction in revenue in the ambulance budget as the reason for the unwarranted layoffs, pointing to a decrease in call volume as the reason for the reduction. Hoquiam is no different than any other fire department in the nation in that call volumes have steadily increased over the last 10 years.

Through a series of press releases, the citizens of Hoquiam have been erroneously led to believe its fire fighters are refusing to go on calls. None of this is accurate. Fire fighters respond to ALL 911 calls and always treat every emergency with the care and attention that would be given to their own family members.

Due to policy changes even prior to these layoffs, fire fighter staffing has been dangerously and irresponsibly limited, affecting the city’s ability to provide the emergency response taxpayers are led to believe they are funding. These recent policy changes have affected the functional operation of our department and have put the citizens and our personnel at an increased risk. These policy changes assure no off duty personnel are called in to cover the city when our department responds to fire or EMS calls in any of the surrounding districts, while transporting non-emergent patients to and from the hospital for MRI services and while transporting airlift crews to and from the hospital to Bowerman Airfield. This leaves the city with only three personnel while the other fire fighters Hoquiam pays for are either out of the city or occupied with non-emergent tasks.

Hoquiam Fire Fighters have filed a grievance regarding these policy changes that, when resolved, will hopefully bring a better level of safety back to its citizens and firefighters. We are still negotiating and can deliver a significant savings to the budget while maintaining the current staffing levels. Also in the discussions is the possible consolidation with the City of Aberdeen Fire Department.

These reasons alone are enough to cause us to wonder why the layoffs were so urgent. There are plenty more questions to be asked of your Councilperson(s), Mayor and the City Administrator.