Garden Grove

Goodbye GGFD, hello to the OCFA

GARDEN GROVE firefighters in action (Dooley photo).

By Jim Tortolano

After months of debate, conflicting mathematics and anxiety about a voter decision on raising taxes, the Garden Grove City Council finally made a decision on a proposal to move from a municipal fire department to contracting with the Orange County Fire Authority.

The council voted 6-1 Tuesday night – with Councilman Kris Beard casting the lone dissenting vote – to direct the city manager to enter into negotiations with OCFA for a contract to provide fire and paramedic services.

The negotiations are expected to take about two months, and a 120-day transition period would follow, putting the timeline for the dissolution of the 92-year-old Garden Grove Fire Department at April or May 2019.

Members of the local firefighters association broke into applause and cheers when the vote was completed. The GGFA has been urging the city to make the switch to the countywide agency, which has promised to take on all the firefighters and paramedics now in the GGFD.

During the discussion leading up to the vote, Councilman Phat Bui spoke in favor of the change, focusing on the issue of paramedic response time, citing friends of his who had suffered strokes and heart attacks. In a recent analysis, the GGFD reported that it had managed the desirable six-minute response time for paramedic calls only 38 percent of the time.

But Beard was concerned about the loss of local control and the possible financial risks. He argued in favor of the city investing in upgrading the GGFD to OCFA standards. Fire Chief Tom Schultz has submitted a plan to add paramedics and make other changes that he says would allow it to match OCFA’s response times.

“The best way to predict the future is to control it,” said Beard.

Financial estimates varied. A report from a city financial analyst stated that over 10 years, a switch to the OCFA would cost taxpayers an additional $10 million. But the firefighters’ spokesman, Eric Thorson, argued that instead it would cost only about $250,000 to $275,000 extra for that period.

He urged the council to make a decision “tonight,” claiming that “the fire department is falling apart.”

Mayor Steve Jones had the last word. He listed three issues at hand: quality of service, cost and nostalgia for a public agency whose roots go back to the Roaring Twenties with a volunteer firefighting force.

“I’ve heard from very few people about the nostalgia,” he said. “Things have changed. We’re a big city now. The nostalgia ship has already sailed.”

He pronounced the OCFA “a class act,” adding “the future of firefighting is a regional approach.” As for cost, he said “it’s basically a wash,” contradicting the city financial analysis.

Also on Tuesday night, the city council voted 6-0 – with Bui abstaining – in favor of an ordinance to begin implementation of the 1-cent sales tax approved by Garden Grove voters on Nov. 6. Collection of the new tax will begin on April 1, 2019.


14 replies »

  1. The regional approach was debated years ago when money and power won over efficiency and service. This was going to happen eventually. Too bad it took so long, created bad feelings along the way.

    • Means they get abolished. Just as the rest of the city staff, metronet dispatch, and north net training facility will suffer because of selfish wants for money.

    • CERT while affiliated is not a fire based entity. You all are civilians and it’s not that hard to change things and affiliate with the new fire authority (which will still comprise of much of the same firefighters). The sky is not falling.

  2. Long over due ! A previous city consolidation saved the city of Santa Ana over $1 million each year ! With an enhanced service ! Regional Fire Service is the future and your lucky to get it ! Why should each city department pay 5 over head Chief’s over $300,000 each, (total compensation cost) to man a desk managing a small department with a limited budget. When 1 Regional department is already managed and can consolidate. This over head cost of over $ 1 million plus each year is a savings to the tax payer with the access to 100’s of Fire Apparatus, Aircraft, Haz Mat teams and paramedic manpower !! Thx You to this City’s leaders for your vision !!! To the Chief’s that fought this, I say Shame on you, you went from serving the public to being a dependency on it !! Congrats to your Firefighters association for there dedication and cost savings while enhancing your
    service !!

    • Santa Ana was facing a $30 million dollar deficit when they “quickly” contracted out. They “quickly” got rid of their city-run firefighter/paramedic ambulance service & brought in a for-profit ambulance service. The daily staffing went from SAFD-63 to OCFA-48. BTW, Santa Ana is, once again, facing a large $$ deficit. It’s understandable that everyone wants the best pay/benefits they can get. The truth behind all of it is, contracting out is just a shell game. Just ask Irvine & Placentia.

  3. Grove has had a reputation for aggressive response which could diminish under new leadership and policy. All of the perceived additional resources are already available under MOU without the constant cost of ownership and upkeep. Unfortunately if something regional occurs, the unified command may not be able to support the needs of the local community due to resource priorities. As for CERT, in Gardrn Grove, the program is co-sponsored by GGPD and GGFD, so they may survive!

  4. Aggressive response? What does that mean? After reading the study, looks like the City of Garden Grove is going to get way better service. Having two paramedics on every single Truck and Engine in the city is a huge upgrade.

    • How exactly is having two paramedics on every single truck or engine a huge upgrade? The County EMS standard is one paramedic. If the County Medical Director thought two paramedics would result in better patient care he or she would make the minimum standard 2.

      • Hector,

        I don’t know what County you are referring to but in Orange County, OCEMS has a mandated 2-paramedics to treat and escort an ALS (Advanced life support) patient. There are Counties in the area, specifically Riverside County that allow a 1 paramedic/1 EMT ALS team. But in Orange County that is not an acceptable standard.


  5. Sounds like a win win for GGFD and for the city. As a Retired Fire Chief I wish we had 2 paramedics on our rigs. Faster response time maybe on outlining areas but if needed just think now GGC residents you have the cavalry coming to help. History will never be forgotten fire fighters are family with deep roots sounds like it’s backed by the fire fighters!! Congrats GG Fire fighters

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