Defending San Luis Obispo firefighters

August 26, 2011


As I sat in the recliner returning from my 57th call in three days this morning, I wanted to comment on San Luis Obispo firefighter Rob Farino’s recent Opinion piece.  I am one of the “L.A. Firemen”  that is being used as a measuring stick against San Luis Obispo city firefighters.

This is an opportunity for me to not only reflect on the comments slamming Rob’s character but the entire fire service in general. I find it only fitting that I respond in the same comforts that everyone else has—on the beautiful Central Coast, without fear of major crime, traffic, gangs, drugs and our beautiful 72 degree weather.

This is not a statement defending Rob’s $26-dollar per hour wage, his decent retirement, or San Luis Obispo Fire Department’s ability to keep collective bargaining. He makes a wage to support his family in the San Luis Obispo area and it gives him the opportunity to live in the community in which he serves.

No, this is in response to the attacks that have been made against firefighters and police and the job they do on CalCoastNews, the Tribune and the Dave Congalton show. As most of you sit behind a computer screen in the safety of your workplace or home and attack our local public servants as being overpaid, under-worked, and then blamed to be the the root of so many of the City’s financial problems, I would like you to realize you are attacking your first and last line of defense against the cancerous abuse of the public health care system that riddles many areas today.

I know what you’re thinking—that could never happen here, we’re immune from the problems occurring  “down south”. Tell that to the fine tax paying citizens of Lennox, Watts, San Bernardino, Moreno Valley and East Palmdale just to name a few cities I have served and I will continue to provide excellent service for the next 20 years.

They too were once immune to the abuse, yet now riddled with the problems that everyone here living in San Luis Obispo has come up to escape. If this comment seems foreign to you, pack up the kids and take a vacation, not to Hawaii, or the Grand Canyon, yet spend some time in the communities you would hope not to be forced to get off the freeway and get gas on your way to Orange County or Palm Springs. If you need “pay per hour” hotel recommendations let me know, I’m sure most San Luis Obispo residents will need no more than that to understand my point.

Call me cynical or a little jaded, but you can not say I don’t have first hand experience of being a fireman, which most of the people here making these comments lack. Rob Farino is the type of person you want in defense of these problems. He seems educated, eloquent and very passionate about his job.

One day, in the not so distant future, as our precious community changes and our way becomes threatened, like so many others have, you’ll gladly pay him or anyone else $26 dollars an hour to come to your aid.  I can promise you San Luis Obispo’s call volume will go up, you will need and want our police and fire services.  So I respectfully beg to you be careful towards the hateful and ignorant stones being thrown towards the ones sworn to protect you.

Please value our police and fire departments.  As the old saying goes; We’re not paid on a daily basis for what we do; but for what we are willing to do!

Aaron Salmon serves as a firefighter in Los Angeles.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

“As most of you sit behind a computer screen in the safety of your workplace or home and attack our local public servants as being overpaid, under-worked, and then blamed to be the the root of so many of the City’s financial problems”


This author and most Americans simply fail to understand the concept of supply and demand that determines prices for products and wages labor a capitalism system. Simply stated, the price of these firefighters wages and retirement have little to nothing to do with some intrinsic perception of value. Rather, the wages are simply determined by the equilibrium of supply and demand. How many people are there who want to be firefighters? How much demand is there for firefighters? Where those two lines cross is the wage of a firefighter.

Look at it this way. Is the most important thing in your life your child? (Hopefully you answered yes.) Then, how come you turn your child over to daycare personnel who make $10 hr? You just gave the most precious thing in your life over to someone making about minimum wage—same pay as the guy making your fries at In n Out. Is your child a little more important than your fries? Then why aren’t those critically important day care workers making $50 hr. or even more? It’s simple. Because there are a lot of woman who can do the job thereby driving down the wage compared to the demand. Could Rob or Aaron be good as good day care providers as the women who do it for $10 hr? I doubt it. Would they do it for $10 hr? I bet not. If firefighting and day care work both paid the current firefighter wages and retirement, would Rob and Aaron choose day care providing over firefighting? I’d bet money they wouldn’t.

The point here is that whining about how valuable your services are, although exactly what you are supposed to do when your pay is getting cut, is pretty much irrelevant. What’s relevant is whether there are people who will do your job competently for less. When there are people who will do your job competently for less, it is the way of a Capitalistic system for you to be fired and the cheaper labor hired. In the same way that you shop prices when buying a car or groceries or anything else, the Capitalistic system demands that employers shop labor.

And where we screwed up is in forgetting that this basic principal of capitalism should also apply to government. Government should be kept absolutely as small as possible with as much work as possible sent out for bid to private companies. The price of the project is the lowest price that a competent bidder is willing to do the project for– Period. Instead our governments across the nation have devolved into fiefdoms where they engage in analyses like those of Rob’s and Aaron’s where they have convinced themselves how valuable they are irrespective of market forces.

The simple answer here is for Rob and/or Aaron to quit their job when their pay gets cut. If new people come in for less money there’s your answer. If no new people come in for less money, there’s your answer. It’s about supply and demand. The rest is pretty much irrelevant.

Very well stated.

It will never work that way of course as present day labor unions (business’s in themselves) spread their accumulated wealth via lobbiests and campaign reelection PAC’s. Peddling their influence.

Other than the occasional crackpot on these forums, I haven’t seen anyone object to the firefighters themselves, just their inflated image of their own worth. Measures A & B will most likely pass but remember it is just a drop in the bucket. Public administration is vastly overpaid (as the firefighters have correctly reminded us) and the existing pensions being paid to those already retired are also killing us. And without a wholesale bankruptcy of the state or local government, there’s nothing we can do to modify that situation.

Let’s watch Vallejo and see what happens as they emerge from their bankruptcy.

Ronald Reagan reacted to the air traffic controllers. Why can’t the rest of government act in a similar way.

Your analysis was right on. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people out there who would get in line for one of these jobs probably for half the pay and be receptive to the new two tier retirement system. And yes they are capable of providing the same service.

Amen, Mr. Holly!

I do not believe that either Rob or Aaron complained about their salary. You are all missing the point. It is about what they do vs. what some of you think they do. It is about reality vs. fantasy. It is about a service that is rooted in history that armchair “quarterbacks” think they can do better. What Rob and Aaron are asking for is respect – and they, along with the rest of SLO firefighter personnel have earned that from you. I read in one of these posts that someone said, in an emergency, all firefighters would just go home to protect their own – sooooo untrue!! How many stories have you read about firefighters losing their own homes while they were out fighting the fire? If that was the case, we would have chaos! Come on – get real!! If you think anyone can do their job, why is training required? Why do you demand “better”? If “anyone” is good enough for you – a warm body, so to speak – then you will have to live with the results of unqualified, untrained people handling life-threatening situations – and that life may be yours!

Why does the city of San Luis Obispo police and fire personnel deserve so much MORE pay than their counterparts in other incorporated cities in this county?

They do a GREAT job and they do it for about HALF the salary and they don’t WHINE!

These San Luis city safety agencies better clean up their own before you get any respect from the taxpayers who pay your ridiculous wages and benefits.

I don’t know next time I call for help if I will get beat up by Scott Cramer of SLOPD or Ryan Mason of SLOFD!

Remember THEIR words… if A&B pass then SLO will become Watts and People Will Die!

I don’t have a great deal of respect for public safety employees who don’t live in (or at least very near) the communities who pay their wages.

Interesting. Please elaborate.

Sorry if that hits a bit too home, Kevin…

Hey – it takes a wage that allows you to live where you work – keep that in mind if you want our public safety folks to live locally. Can’t have it both ways!! And SLO is definitely not an inexpensive place to live!!

57 calls in 3 days. I think that should draw some attention to the this issue. First off how many days off will you now have? Many i exspect, so that overtime may be paid to your comrades who fill in for your abscense. If you are now working in Watts or Lennox it would be interesting to compare your 57 calls to the last 57 calls that any of our local fire departments have responded to. How many murders did you go to-some I bet? How many times did you hear gunshots? How many times were you harassed by the “pub;ic” which required law enforcement assistance.

I do admire you for your job and what you put up with in those areas. But at the same time please do not compare the “risks” that the local members of the fire departments are exposed to. It’s the difference between day and nigh and the pay should be dealt with accordingly.

I was in public safety in Watts and the Lennox Disrtrict for years and yes I DO know the difference.

Aaron Salmon (LA Fireman),

You have posted your same opinion three times in the last two days, why do you keep repeating yourself ?

Bugcatcher, I posted in the comment section once via cell phone, unsure if it went through so then again via home computer. The editors of Cal Coast now moved it to the front page. I apologize for the duplications.

In all due respect, Aaron, I know elay. Allow me to remind you that the city of Bell is also down there. People who can take care of themselves do quite well. Totting out the big scary big city boogieman is a poor argument and dishonest at best. BTW, if a big problem happened here, well, what would happen is that the firemen and the policemen would run home to take care of their families…. so we are basically saying, you have to take care of yourself.

The various city associations have web sites where they talk with each other about the current financial crisis. Most of their solutions address ‘loopholes’ in the various measures by which they can reach into the taxpayers pocket… but they know it is not enough… they are talking openly about making tough cuts before the cities are taken over by zealots who might — gasp– bring salaries, retirements and budgets into line.

As they say, Aaron, it’s tough when its your ox that gets gored…. but as the public is seeing behind the curtain of fattened public salaries of self serving public and educational administrations, there are many that just want to see it all go away. Change it or lose it.

Judging by the responses to these two opinion pieces, I would say the A and B are sure to pass. But you never know until the vote is actually taken. I think the fact that both writers appear to want to keep the status quo is telling. While offering no facts or figures to counter what they are alledgeing as inaccurate makes it sound like sour grapes. I would be curious to see some logs from the past month or so and see just how horrible this job must be to justify this kind of rant.

If everyone printed out 20 copies of the opinion pieces and attached each copy to a bullet-point list of the issues, then posted them on public billboards, I think A and B would have a much better chance of passing.

These firefighters…are they clueless? Farino and Salmon are like the Lynette T. of firefighters. They really are not advancing their cause by their actions.

Mary, I’ve read my letter a few times and still perplexed how you think I have any so called cause, I was defending my profession. In no way have I attempted to advance anything, San Luis City’s pay and how they deal with there personal effects me in no way? I beg you to re read my letter before responding completely unfounded responses. Attempting to remain free from slander towards you I don’t think I’m the clueless on. I will say nothing more as I can see a circular discussion forming.

Why don’t we just refer it to your chief and see what he has to say about these two major issues:

1. Your thinly- and not-so-thinly-veiled scare tactics.

2. Your support of Farino’s opinion piece, which is insulting to the people who pay his wages.

You and Farino are, in my experience, aberrations of how firefighters interact with the communities they serve. We entrust you with our lives, and FFs don’t need to be launching arrogant message-board opinion pieces, especially right before an election to decide the fate of two important (to firefighters, certainly) political measures.

I am shocked that your chief allows this to go on. It is a terrible reflection on FFs at large. Especially here in SLO, where we’ve had to watch a violent psycho FF get free pass after free pass after free pass for his vicious assaults on local citizens, many of us have lost confidence in our local FF and PD over this nutball FF and the way he was coddled by his chief and others.

Then again, the fact that the chief coddled the viciously violent John Ryan Mason, and also allows his FFs to, on public message boards, insult the citizens who pay their wages, is at least consistency in behavior.

Unfortuantely for us all, coddling violent FFs who assault local citizens and allowing his FFs to insult (another type of assault–a pattern, here) citizens posting on a public message board, may be consistent, but they are highly inappropriate.

Rob is in no way eloquent! He came off arrogant, selfish and entitled. Yes of course a salary should be equal to the work you do, but here in San Luis what they are getting for what they do is not equal. Most of the calls are that of first response before the ambulance arrives. Someone needs to send the Whamulance out to pick up Rob and administer some oxygen. As for the train accident comment, WAY OUT OF LINE to bring up the shoe. INSENSITIVE AND RUDE! I have experienced some extreme rudeness from fire response, and on one hand, I have also had some super nice and respectful fire response. As for the one major Rotten Apple in the pile, John Ryan Mason, he is a fine example of that. He needs to be fired, PERIOD! Vote Yes on A & B

These firefighters will still be able to make a good living.

Mr. Salmon,

We are not slamming Rob Farino’s character, but rather his lack thereof, as displayed in the poison-pen letter he tried to pawn off as an opinion piece. Also, you again make a false equivalency between legitimate discussion and “attacking” firefighters and police.

Also, are you trying to say that if we criticize public safety officials, or pass A & B, we will end up like Watts? Sorry, I don’t see the correlation. Ease up on the hysteria please.

The “hateful and ignorant stones being thrown” (i.e. legitimate criticisms) are a natural human response to the Morro Rock of vituperation Mr. Farino hurled at the very people who pay his salary (i.e. taxpayers). Remember, respect cannot be demanded, it can only be earned. If Rob Farino wants the respect of his community, he needs to behave respectably.

I respect public safety personnel; it is not disrespectful that in these difficult times they be asked to tighten their belts and cut costs just like the rest of us.

Very well said, Ugluk. Your last paragraph pretty much says it all.

ITA, Ugluk.

He does make a false comparison when he spins legitimate discussion as being “attacks” against firefighters. Since the debate is usually about the actions of the firefighters, absent the objectionable actions by the firefighters, there would be no discussion about the firefighters involved in it.

Salmon’s statement about Watts is clearly a cheap scare tactic, and that is the LAST thing that should be said to citizens by a firefighter. Indeed, if Mr. Salmon is the yardstick by which the SLOCity firefighters are to be measured, they better get a better, cleaner yardstick. First responders using scare tactics against the public…is that something that is okay with the fire chiefs?

And about the “hateful and ignorant stones being thrown” comment….actually, he’s lucky legitimate discussion of firefighters’ pay is the only “stones” being thrown. If we were to treat firefighters as they allow one of their members, John Ryan Mason, to treat citizens, we’d be throwing punches and kicking them in the head.

I don’t think there would be this much aversion to the pay situation if it wasn’t for the fawning babying of John Ryan Mason.

1 2 3