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Concord Firefighters Talk About Not Fighting Fires

NPR reporters spent some time riding around with Concord firefighters for a story on the question of fire station funding and pensions. What happens when your heroes cost too much?

Concord Firefighters Talk About Not Fighting Fires

Are firefighters actually fighting fires anymore?

Not really, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Fire departments respond to 40 percent fewer fires now than they did 30 years ago, thanks to building and materials upgrades. There aren't as many fires, and yet fire departments still retain the bulky trucks, many stations and expensive firefighting staff. Add six-figure pensions to the total bill, and the question arises: What happens when your heroes cost too much?

NPR reporters headed out to Concord for an answer.

What they found was that instead of battling flames, firefighters respond mostly to emergency calls for paramedics. Don Johansen of Concord's fire station 6 told NPR that he'd rather be fighting fires than responding to medical calls, which sometimes require little or no action from the team and none at all from the hefty fire truck outside.

That's an expense that Contra Costa County taxpayers decided in the Nov. 6 election they wouldn't be willing to fund. Measure Q failed — shocking the fire fighting community who thought it would be an easy pass, according to NPR — and now four fire stations in Central Contra Costa County — including Clayton — will be de-staffed or shut down to offset a budget deficit.

So what's a firefighter worth these days? NPR asks. Listen to the story online here.

How do you think firefighters should be funded? Does the pension system need to change? Should stations be shut down and fire trucks retired? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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