Due to the pandemic, the city of Oakland is facing a huge $62 million budget deficit this year. So far, one of the proposed cuts drawing the most heat is to the Fire Department.
With all the revenue it’s lost during COVID-19, Oakland has some difficult choices to make.
Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Ed Reiskin sent a letter to city employees last month saying without massive cuts, “…the General Purpose Fund will be insolvent before the end of the fiscal year… Even the City’s emergency reserve will be completely exhausted.”
So, in a long list of cuts, city staff is proposing three of the city’s 25 fire engine companies be put out of service. That represents 15% of the city’s firefighting force.
“We’ve never closed firehouses, we’ve never closed three at a time,” said Zac Unger, president of Oakland Firefighters Local 55. “That’s a number that is just astronomical. It’s going to mean that there are parts of Oakland that won’t be able to get a response from a fire engine for 10 to 15 minutes.”