City to provide “24-hour emergency services” as well as wildfire-fighting

presidio.jpgThere’s a vast difference between an inebriant passed out on Polk Street and a wildfire in a Presidio eucalyptus grove less than two miles away, but there won’t be any difference between the coverage the San Francisco Fire Department provides for both.
Under an agreement ratified by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, the SFFD will officially take over firefighting duties in the Presidio on October 1, 2010, replacing the semi-independent crew — paid for by federal funds — currently staffing the Presidio Fire station.

Under the terms of the agreement, “SFFD will provide the same level of ambulance service in the Presidio, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that is provided in other parts of the city,” and SFPD “will provide structure and wildfire fire suppression” as well as undergoing training on “historic preservation values and standards” (because the Presidio, unlike San Francisco, is chock full of historic buildings that are left empty as the Presidio Trust wonders what to do with them).

How much will this cost you, the taxpayer? Nothing! Well, nothing locally, anyway: the SFFD will charge the National Parks Service and the Presidio Trust up to $4.3 million for the first year of service; over the initial 10-year agreement, the city will be paid a maximum of $50.7 million. So as long as you don’t pay your federal taxes, this will technically cost you nothing.

As The Examiner reported, any cost overruns above the $4.3 million figure will be passed on to the city. The paper also reported that most of the current Presidio firefighters will be rehired by the SFFD; 12 firefighters and four paramedics were hired, according to the union that represents the Presidio firefighters, leaving just a handful looking for new employment.

The SFFD will have to respond to any Presidio emergency within five minutes “90 percent of the time,” according to the agreement; of course, an emergency in Fort Funston could be responded to by an ambulance crew posted on Taraval Street, not the Presidio, under the SFFD’s flexible deployment plan.

The SFFD is also responsible for making sure its equipment works on the Presidio’s smaller fire hydrants — the openings on the hydrants are slightly smaller than the hydrants seen in San Francisco proper — but that won’t be a problem, according to Lt. Mindy Talmadge, the Fire Department’s spokeswoman.

All a hose needs to work on a smaller hydrant is a little piece of metal, which most SF engines have already. “We’ve been running with them for years,” Talmadge told the Appeal. “All [the changeover] needs is a little bit of paint” to change the signage, she said.
And new union cards, as the 15 Presidio firefighters will now be members of Local 798 and subject to those union work rules and exciting springtime budget battles. Welcome to the fold, everyone!

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