The Hollister City Council gave the green light Sept. 4 for the Hollister Fire Department to begin to utilize an automated reimbursement service for local firefighters assigned to fight blazes beyond the local region. The service is offered through the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) California Fire Assistance Agreement (CFAA).
According to the Cal OES website, the CFAA will allow the fire department to obtain reimbursement through the California Fire Service and Rescue Emergency Mutual Aid System.
Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo said during the Sept. 4 Hollister City Council meeting that the automated data system would allow the department to be reimbursed within 30 to 60 days for employees who are assigned to an emergency incident away from their official duty station.
As an example, Del Campo cited the Cranston Fire in Riverside County, which burned through 13,139 acres before being fully contained in late August. He also mentioned the 229,651-acre Carr Fire in Shasta County, which resulted in three firefighter fatalities.
Battalion Chief James Rossi said two crews were dispatched to the Cranston Fire and then transferred to the Carr Fire. The two crews spent eight days and 14 days, respectively, battling the fires. In 2017, crews were dispatched to three fires: the Pier Fire, Thomas Fire, and Tubbs Fire.
“We’ll put an engine company together and they’ll deploy within a matter of an hour,” Martin Del Campo said. “Within that hour we’ll call off-duty firefighters to come back to fill the vacancy.”
The Hollister Fire Department currently sends data to the state manually, essentially filling out a timecard. The process of finalizing and receiving the reimbursement can take several months, Martin Del Campo said.
At the Sept. 4 City Council meeting, the fire department also received approval to apply for a Monterey Peninsula Foundation Grant that would fund a training facility.
The training facility would also be available to law enforcement and community college programs, according to the meeting agenda packet.
The estimated cost of the facility is $800,000, Rossi said. The department is pursuing several grant options to cover the majority of the costs. He added that the objective is to complete the fire department training facility by the end of Fiscal Year 2018-19.
According to the agenda packet, opening up the training facility to community college programs would generate funding for maintenance. It also stated the facility would allow training for live fire, confined space, high angle, ventilation, forcible entry, firefighter survival, aerial ladder operations, victim recovery, standpipe, and various other procedures.
The Hollister Fire Department was recently awarded a $2.59 million federal SAFER grant, which the Hollister City Council voted to accept on Aug. 20. The grant would allow the department to hire nine full-time firefighters, according to previous statements from Martin Del Campo. However, the grant is in jeopardy because it’s contingent upon Hollister, San Benito County, and San Juan Bautista signing a contract for shared fire services.
Their current contract expires Sept. 30.
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