Officials from the city of Santa Ana and the Orange County Fire Authority are set to sign a contract today that will merge the Santa Ana Fire Department and the OCFA.Way back in December I wrote about the possibility of this merger happening. You can read all my reasons for supporting it here. And the city will not suffer any loss of firefighting capability because of this move - resources already regularly move between Santa Ana and OCFA areas as part of an ongoing mutual aid pact.
Mayor Miguel Pulido and OCFA Board Chairman Mark Tettemer will sign the contract at a City Hall ceremony at 6 p.m.
It will take place at Santa Ana Council Chambers, 22 Civic Center Plaza.
The City Council voted Feb. 21 to outsource firefighting services to the Orange County Fire Authority, bringing the city's 128-year-old fire department to an end.
The move will help the city close a budget deficit estimated at $30 million, while keeping all 10 of the city's fire stations open. The OCFA will absorb the city's 192 firefighters and 12 non-sworn personnel when it takes over providing service in Santa Ana on April 20.
The city will pay about $33.7 million to the OCFA in the first year of an eight-year agreement. The city expects to save between $8.7 million and $10 million per year. The savings would come partly from reducing the number of firefighters on duty at any one time from a current minimum of 63 to 48.
I think this move could cause other cities in the county to seriously reconsider their own fire department situation. Even if they don't join the OCFA, there's no reason why several cities could merge their operations into one and take advantage of the efficiencies that would bring. In densely populated Orange County, where one city seamlessly melds into the next, there's simply no reason for each city to have its own fire and police departments - not in a day when budgets are so tight.