As of today (10/7/2023), the West Stanislaus Fire Protection District (WSCFPD) has an antiquated written agreement with the City of Patterson providing services from Patterson Fire Department. As part of the agreement, WSCFPD pays 40% of 2 Division Chiefs of Patterson salaries, 40% of the Fire Chief of Patterson salary, 40% of one Office Manager salary, and for the use of Station #1 (downtown) to house apparatus and provide a dayroom for the volunteers. Although the City of Patterson Fire Chief is a salaried position employed by the City, WSCFPD considers this same person their Fire Chief as well. In fact, WSCFPD treats the Fire Chief (and the other Chief positions) as their own employees, even though WSCFPD is incapable of and not set-up to employ anyone. The antiquated agreement is so convoluted and confusing, this detrimental and damaging relationship has festered for many, many years.
WSCFPD recently had a ballot measure, Measure M, for a tax increase for rural residents that did not pass, putting the District in a tough financial situation. It was on their last board meeting agenda to discuss re-negotiating with the City of Patterson to pay only 20% of these positions to help their situation.
Fire Chiefs that work for WSCFPD and the City of Patterson has never made sense to the IAFF Local 4577. While both departments provide fire protection, they deliver this service in very different ways. WSCFPD is solely a volunteer organization with zero employees and the City of Patterson is a growing department with career personnel that is constantly working to provide the highest level of service to its citizens.
In the past, this has raised concerns and affected firefighter working conditions and safety. It has not been abnormal for the City of Patterson Fire Department to delay new turnouts, new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, new radios, or even a second set of turnouts to reduce cancer risk after fires, without the Chiefs waiting until WSCFPD can afford the same. This has held up essential safety gear for the City of Patterson firefighters.
The City Manager and the Mayor of Patterson, Mike Clauzel, have both told firefighters that Chief Gregory would be the last Fire Chief of both WSCFPD and the City of Patterson Fire Department. Chief Gregory is retired as of 10/13/2023, so now is the time for the City of Patterson to renegotiate with the District and terminate the sharing of all positions. Then we need to look at a complete financial separation from WSCFPD. Any future agreement between the City and WSCFPD should be in the form of a contract for response services, if WSCFPD deems such response services necessary due to lack of volunteer participation, etc.
Many people when they hear this immediately worry about the volunteers in Patterson. IAFF Local 4577 is not advocating for them to go anywhere. We will happily keep on Patterson City Volunteers and immediately look for ways to train with them and build a strong working relationship with the volunteers. We believe this separation will allow for them to have more leadership, a better identity, and clearly defined roles and responsibilities within the City of Patterson. All of which is currently lacking. As stated in other parts of this series, the structure fires on 10/4/2023 & 10/7/2023 received zero City of Patterson Volunteers apparatus. We would like to see that change for the better.