SACRAMENTO, CA - Sacramento Fire Department's special operations could be cut out of the 2012-2013 fiscal city budget; affecting several programs whose focus is rescue and public protection.
The water boat rescue program; heavy and confined space rescue; high angle and low angle; and trench rescue teams would be completely eliminated from the department. Three out of four hazmat teams would also disappear.
The SFD's union said fire fighters respond to almost 80,000 calls each year. Only 500 of those calls are for hazmat, but fire fighters said those are the critical calls.
"You're talking about vapor releases and liquid toxins that can kill on impact," said Todd Filburn of Fire Fighters Local 522.
On the American River, families were enjoying the shallow end of the water, but were cautious of the swift and cold currents.
"You have to do your part to be safe, because the time rescuers can get to you, it's too late," said father Barry Cookson, who was tying inner tubes together and anchoring the line to a cement brick.
"That way the kids just float in a circle and you don't lose anyone, because you will lose someone in the river."
The water boat rescue program said it can respond from its dock on 8th Street to most calls within five minutes. Filburn said that if the program is cut, water emergency calls would be directed to the Elk Grove, Metro, or Roseville fire departments. Parents at the river bank said they were more apprehensive to visit the river area that didn't have a nearby rescue response team.
"One of the last times I was out here water rescue had to pull someone out," said mother Stephanie Smith. "If they're coming from a distance, we can lose lives."
The proposed new budget cuts are still being debated by city officials. The city manager and fire chief were not available this weekend to comment. Fire fighters' local 522 said it will meet with the city on Tuesday to discuss the budget.