Chula Vista Firefighters Union Fights for More Staffing, City Council Acts

Chula Vista City Council sent back the budget, requesting more resources for the fire department

In Chula Vista, there is a big push to help solve what some are calling a public safety crisis in the city.

The Chula Vista Fire Department (CVFD) has failed to meet the national response time goal for six years in a row.

The numbers were startling to many.

"We are the worst staffed fire department in the state of California. When you look at the firefighters per capita, we are at .43. The average is one," said Darrell Roberts, President of Chula Vista Firefighters Local 2180.  

Roberts told NBC 7 something needs to change, and now--especially with the growth of the city.

Currently, the department has 38 firefighters a day responding to emergencies.

"We are so understaffed. We cannot keep up and provide a level of service that we want to, to our citizens," Roberts added.

CVFD hasn't come close to achieving the national response time goal of arriving to a call within four minutes, 90 percent of the time for six years in a row. 

Staffing hasn't increased in several years, so Roberts took his concerns to the city council meeting Tuesday night, ahead of next year's budget approval. 

"We have seen over a 26 percent increase in calls for service over the last five years, and we haven't added anybody," Roberts explained to the council.

City Council members agreed, saying the problem is real.

"I don't know how I can't not say anything. I don't," said District 4 Councilmember Mike Diaz.

Diaz pointed out the worker's comp claims for firefighters is five times the national average.

"They're people," he added. "They have to go home. They have to live their lives, and make sure they go home safe and that's our job."

The council decided the city needs to do better and sent back the budget to the City Manager, asking for more options to add firefighters.

"It's completely unacceptable to me frankly that we're still in this position. At the end of the day, it's time to act," added District 3 Councilmember Stephen Padilla.

But adding resources for the fire department will cost about $2 million, so cuts will have to be made in other areas.  

Roberts and CVFD Fire Chief Jim Geering will meet with the city manager over the next couple of weeks to figure out a plan.

The budget will then go back to the council to hopefully be approved.

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