Calif. Firefighters Campaign Against Privatization

SAN CARLOS, Calif. --

Firefighters in the city of San Carlos began a door-to-door campaign Saturday morning in the hopes of saving their jobs, as the city government contemplates privatizing its fire department as a cost-saving measure.

About 100 local firefighters gathered Saturday morning and began canvassing local neighborhoods with fliers detailing the city's plans, knocking on doors and asking residents to support them at a city council meeting and public hearing that Monday night.

In the hopes of decreasing its $3.5 million budget deficit, the San Carlos City Council planned to discuss and decide the fate of the local fire department at the meeting.

Currently San Carlos shares its fire department with the city of Belmont. But last year, San Carlos city leaders gave notice that they wanted to end that agreement to save money.

The city has three options: it can create its own stand-alone fire department, consolidate with the Redwood City Fire Department, or it could shut down the fire department completely and contract with a private security company called Wackenhut Corporation.

"[The Wackenhut Corporation] does not contract with other cities in California, said San Carlos Mayor Omar Ahmad in an interview Saturday morning. But I wouldnt, just out of hand, dismiss their ability to provide good services."

Ahmad said a new plan for the fire department would save the city between $1 and $3 million.

If the city decides to consolidate its fire department with Redwood City, it has two options to choose from: either using just Redwood Citys administrators and fire chief while still employing local firefighters, or contracting the services of the entire department.

Were going to have to make structural changes to reduce our deficit, said Ahmad. The mayor went on to say that the city has made budget cuts for the past 11 years straight.

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