Compton firefighters picket at City Hall, demand an end to budget cuts

Josh Haskell Image
Wednesday, September 7, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

Compton firefighters picketed at City Hall because they say the department is underfunded, resulting in aging infrastructure at stations, outdated equipment and staffing issues.

COMPTON, Calif. (KABC) -- The 56 firefighters employed by the city of Compton have had enough.

They picketed at City Hall Tuesday because they say the department is underfunded, resulting in aging infrastructure at stations, outdated equipment and staffing issues.

"At times it is very, very difficult to do our job. We are having to work eight days straight, so we're talking eight 24-hour shifts," said Antonio Chavez, a Compton firefighter and the vice president of their union, Local 2216.

"Our stations are broken down, our equipment is broken down. We're not hiring. We're not looking into why we're having retention issues."

"If we have any significant or major alarm, we have to rely on outside agencies to provide that aerial capability," said Daniel Salazar, a Compton firefighter and president of Local 2216.

That's because the department's only aerial ladder truck isn't certified.

The majority of the engines are almost 20 years old and although new engines have been purchased, they won't be ready for three years.

City budgets show Compton's fire department has seen a 23% decrease in funds from about 19.2 million in fiscal year 2019 to 14.7 million in fiscal year 2022. All this, for a department that's among the top five busiest in the state, responding to an average of about 10,000 calls per year according to the city's website.

"Public safety should be the number one priority ... Who responds whenever there's a 911 emergency? The fire department responds," Chavez said. "Regardless of whether we're under contract, regardless of how our equipment is functioning, regardless of whether we're over-worked or tired or stressed."

"We just don't have the money to do everything at one time, so we're trying to put a plan in place to address the concerns of the fire department," said Compton Mayor Emma Sharif.

Compton's firefighters are asking the city to stop cutting their budget and develop a long-term plan to ensure their infrastructure lasts, which will help with retention efforts.

Sharif says she's disheartened by the situation and that the city is currently in negotiations with Local 2216. The mayor stresses that the entire city council is dedicated to public safety.