Calif. Fire Department to be Outsourced After 128 Years

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- As of April 20, David Thomas will no longer be fire chief of the Santa Ana Fire Department.

He is not retiring or being fired. His 128-year fire department is being outsourced to the Orange County Fire Authority.

He will be a division chief with OCFA when the measure takes place in April.

While he is upset to see the oldest fire department in the county abolished, Thomas says he understands it's a win-win for all -- firefighters, the city and residents.

"We won't have any lay-offs that were very possible had we stayed with the city. And, all 10 stations will remain open," Thomas said during an interview at Firehouse World.

All 192 SAFD personnel including dispatchers, fire prevention and fire marshals are being included in the move. "In anticipation of the outsourcing possibility, Orange County left 45 vacant positions open so they could be absorbed."

Some of the firefighters will see leaner paychecks but Thomas said they'd rather have that than none at all.

The number of firefighters on duty daily will go from 63 to 48. And, the department will no longer be transporting BLS patients. A third party agency will be contracted to do that, he said.

The city, which voted to axe the department earlier this week, expects to save about $10M annually.

Thomas, who joined the department in 1984 and rose to chief two years ago, says he is upset about the closure but understands nonetheless. "For a 128-year-old department just to go away is really sad. We have a lot of history.'"

One of the original fire trucks is on display at the oldest firehouse, and there are no plans to move it.

Some type of event to mark the end of the Santa Ana Fire Department is in the works.