With the county still in a declared fiscal emergency, overtime costs are eating the fire budget alive and must be addressed.

That's why the Kern County fire chief is reducing staffing from three-person shifts to two-person shifts at nine stations throughout the county to cut fire overtime costs by $2 million to $3 million annually.

The firefighters union jointly developed this plan with the Fire Department as a fiscal emergency clause in the current Memorandum of Understanding between the county and the union. With the Fire Department facing a $17.8 million structural budget deficit, it is critical to streamline operations and use resources more efficiently while ensuring that fire protection remains robust.

The Fire Department and firefighters chose the nine stations with a careful eye toward ensuring continued fire protection. Stallion Springs had only seven fire calls in 2015, so it was one of the stations firefighters selected for two-person staffing in a fiscal emergency.

Under the plan, these nine stations will remain staffed 24/7, 365 days a year, but with one fewer firefighter per shift. No firefighter will lose his or her job, and the fire chief can add personnel to any of these nine stations, including Stallion Springs, whenever they are needed.

Until 2007, Stallion Springs and many other county fire stations were staffed by two persons. Staffing has fluctuated since then as resources have changed, and the fire chief's staffing adjustment is the latest of those changes.

Fire Chief Brian Marshall and county firefighters have shown foresight and leadership in building flexible staffing into the county work agreement so that in our fiscal emergency, this cost-saving tool is available.

Supervisor Zack Scrivner