The Main Line is the official publication of the San Francisco Fire Fighter’s Local 798. Opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of Local 798 or the San Francisco Fire Department. Members are welcome to submit Letters or Articles for publication; however the Editorial Board reserves the right to review/edit any submitted material.

Who Reads This Garbage Anyway
By Mark Sikora
This month’s diatribe in no particular order, from the meeting after the meeting.

Why Change?

This was one Fire Commissioner’s question with regards to the CPAT (Candidate Physical Ability Test) that was recently presented to the Fire Commission. We were at Treasure Island for a day and a half of the three-day testing process. We actually went through the test so that our opinion (unlike those opposed to the test) would be valid.

Why would any Commissioner, Chief, or Firefighter be against basic minimum standards? Good question. One answer is that a few people in the Department oppose anything that Local 798 is for. Another argument was that the new minimum standards would discriminate against women. Argument one is invalid on its face and won’t be discussed. Argument two is invalid also. Many women took and passed the test. (Two in particular who participated, Dr. Owen and Chief Hayes-White deserve special thanks. It is nice to have the active participation of the Administration in our pursuit of a better-trained Department and more qualified candidates.)

The test, which is being used in many other departments, discriminates against only those who can not physically do the job of a firefighter. Some skills and abilities can be learned on the job. Others, like pulling hose, throwing ladders, carrying equipment etc., firefighters must be able to do their first day on the job. If they can not do it, they are a danger to themselves and others.

(Anybody remember what former New York City Mayor Ed Koch said about who the Fire Dept. hired? He said he did not care who they hired as long as they could carry a 200 lb. Mayor out of City Hall. I wonder who the people who oppose this test want attempting to carry them out of a building during an emergency?)

The CPAT is a fair test and should be adopted as the basic minimum entrance standard of this department.

Money Money Money....Money

Does anybody else want to do something about the disparity of pay in this Department? We need to close the gap in pay between H-2 Firefighters and H-3 Firefighter Paramedics. The gap should be closer to the state average of 5%-10%, not 15.5 % (I think we can settle on 8%). Then we need to open up the gap between H-3’s and H-20 Lieutenants. A supervisor needs to make more money than the person they are supervising. We are just trying to get the ball rolling on this, Tom Kiernan, Paul Mangiola, and Mark Sikora can answer some questions regarding this, but remember, it is a work in progress.

Operators are Firefighters Too

When a Battalion Chief (or any Chief) has to put him/herself out of service for a class, or whatever, why do trucks and engines have to suffer. Specifically, why does the BC take a Captain out of the firehouse to ride the buggy? Then a firefighter gets put in the Captains seat. All of this is non-paid of course, or there might be less of a problem. The problem is: now the firefighting company runs short. Realistically, wouldn’t a better move be to keep the BC out of service and send the operator to ride as an extra firefighter on a rig? At a fire, which is more dangerous, a late arriving BC, or a crew running short with an inexperienced officer? Don’t the first arriving companies go to work before the BC gets there anyway?

More Chief Complaints

Can someone explain why some days the City hires Chief WDO’s but no firefighter WDO’s? We are for everyone making extra money, but we thought there was a budget crisis. Isn’t it cheaper to bump a BC to the AC spot, bump a Capt. to the BC spot, bump a Lt. to the Capt. spot, bump a firefighter to the Lt. spot, then hire an H-2 WDO if necessary? Just asking, we’re not budget analysts or math majors (well, some of us aren’t).

Read the Gurney Gazette

Last month’s Gurney Gazette had a few great articles by Jon Frank and others. The articles point out that statically deployed 24-hour ambulances are fiscally and physically (on the medics) ill conceived. Yet the Presidio Cabal presses on. Go figure. If Gage and DeSoto had it right 25 years ago, how come we can’t figure out how to make it work?

Fair and Instant Promotions

In the past we have ranted about promotional hiring in rank order. We were enlightened by others smarter than us, notably Tom Kiernan and Jim Vannucchi, that being able to audit the test (access to the answer key, and how the tests are scored) is much more important. Without being able to review the test, the results can be manipulated (i.e.: scoring certain questions more or less). If this happens rank order hiring will not matter as the rankings would be skewed.

Since nobody can agree on a test, test procedure, scoring, rule of the list, rule of three, rule of seven, merit, rank order etc. we came up with two possible solutions.

First: Promote solely based on seniority in position. For example, the senior firefighter is offered the first promotion to Lt. If they turn it down, the next person gets asked, and so on down the line. For Capts. The senior Lt. would be offered the first job etc.

That may exclude someone? Then how about this- for every five years seniority you get your name tossed in a hat. A fifth year firefighter gets one name in the hat. A thirty-year veteran gets six names in the hat. Whenever a promotional opportunity arises the Civil Service Commission can pick a name out of the hat.

You’re right, these ideas are preposterous. Almost as preposterous as not having promotional exams on a routine basis. Almost as preposterous as having firehouses with no Captains in charge. Almost as preposterous as appointing Lts. from a list that has been dead for two years. Almost as preposterous as promoting people to positions from non-existent lists, since there has not been a test in so long. Almost as preposterous as not having a permanent Chief in a big city fire department for over six months.

Outside Agencies and Your Job

Have you ever heard of the EMSA? Well they know you. They are in charge of issuing EMT licenses in the City and County, among other things. They recently put a firefighter’s EMT license on probation (do to an unsubstantiated complaint by a private medic). Big deal? It is if someone else files a complaint and your license gets yanked. Those of us hired after 1988 have to keep our EMT licenses as a condition of our employment. No license = no job.

Think about that as we start turning in our fingerprints this month to the EMSA. Any felony convictions in your past? The EMSA may not have to grant EMT licenses to those with a felony record. Think the Presidio or the Administration is going to back you against the EMSA. Think again.

Sycophantic Rantings

While praise was lavished on the semi-new Tabacco Administration last month, they failed to point out a couple of important things. The first is, although we can thank the Tabacco Administration, (along with constant vigilance by Local 798) for the initiation of Rapid Intervention Teams (RIT), we can also thank them for consistently running companies short so that H-2’s can train to become H-3’s. These companies that run short can not, by definition, be used as RIT. Rapid Intervention Teams must have a full crew to be effective. Running companies short means that RIT must come from farther away to the fire scene. Not only is the company running short now in danger, but the safety of everyone on the scene is also lessened.

All this talk about a “New” Administration is, for the most part, a lot of empty rhetoric. Let’s not forget that most of the people who are wearing gold badges now, were also wearing them during the last administration. Not many of them stepped up to stop the slide during the last four years, so let’s not start singing their praises quite yet.

While we can appreciate the changes that have been made, there is still a long way to go. When the entire administration stops looking for the giant gold badge at the end of the rainbow, and starts looking out for the good of the whole, then we will be happy. The positive changes have begun, but we need many, many more before we are entirely sold on a “new” administration.

Let the Brothers (and Sisters) Go

What the hell is going on at radio? What happened to the changes that were going to be made? What happened to all the people who were supposed to be trained to go up there? What happened to Jim O’Connell and Eddie Martinez from Station 3 (we need them back)?

Remember those of you who choose to weasel out of radio for whatever made up reason you come up with, you are not hurting the system, you are not getting over on Chief Goodin (nor, we think, will you ever), and you are not helping your reputation.

The only people you hurt by not going to radio are your fellow H-2’s who are there, who want to come back to the field. When they do get back to the field, whose trade do you think they will pick up first, the person who fudged their way out of radio, or the person who voluntarily went to radio to get it over with sooner and let those who have done their time come back to the field? We know whose trades we won’t be picking up.

You Can’t Defeat Us

Don’t forget. No matter what administration runs the department, no matter what outside agency sticks their fingers in the department, no matter what the Presidio Cabal does next, we still have the best job in the world, in the best city in the world in which to have it.

Rant on and may the Supreme Being of your choice bless you and yours.

(We hope that meets all EEO requirements.)


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