The Hollister Fire Department responded to a record number of calls in 2007 – a further indication that this city’s depleted public safety staffing needs a significant boost with the Measure T sales tax dollars set to start flowing in come April.

The local fire department responded to 2,151 calls in 2007 – a vast majority of them medical matters, according to statistics the department released Wednesday upon request by the Free Lance. It was the first time the city even broke the 2,000 mark, with 1,957 calls in 2006; 1,975 in 2005; and 1,843 in 2004.

The newspaper on Thursday also will request similar response numbers from the Hollister Police Department, as both agencies have been considered understaffed due to budget cuts in recent years.

As noted in reporter Michael Van Cassell’s story Thursday in the Free Lance about the HFD, the department staffs 23 firefighters in a city with a population – around 37,000 people – that calls for 14 more bodies than that current level, at least according to national standards.

The record number of calls also helps better explain why Hollister seems to be paying out an extraordinary amount of overtime income – the other half of the equation is the staffing shortage itself.

And all of this data shoots a straight arrow at the big red bulls-eye calling for a significant chunk of the Measure T sales tax revenue to be allocated toward staffing increases in the fire and police departments.

Other departments and programs are important, too. But the No. 1 priority must be public safety because in the case of both the police and fire departments, lives are at stake, and as a community we should minimize such risks that detain from the best attainable quality of life possible.

Fire Chief Fred Cheshire said in the immediate future he wants to staff 24 firefighters and one prevention officer.

Along with a staffing boost to the police department, we suggest the yet-to-be-determined citizens advisory committee and, ultimately, the Hollister City Council strongly look at an even greater increase than Cheshire is suggesting to get the department to a more respectable level closer to the national standards.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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