Five Cities Fire Authority shutters Oceano station, firefighters elsewhere

September 20, 2021


The Five Cities Fire Authority announced plans Friday to add a full-time firefighter as a partial remedy to the regular closures of the Oceano station.

While Five Cities fire crews were battling the Dixie Fire, the authority shuttered the Oceano station for 10 days noting a lack of funds because Measure A20 failed last year. The proposed tax would have cost property owners $180 per parcel within Oceano, with an increase of 2% a year after that.

At a Five Cities board meeting on Sept. 17, activist Julie Tacker questioned the wisdom of sending equipment and personnel out of area when short staffed here at home.

Chief Steve Lieberman said he expected to be reimbursed for his crews’ work.

During the Oceano brownouts, the Five Cities Fire Authority sends first responders from Grover Beach or Arroyo Grande to Oceano, adding approximately six minutes to the response time.

Explaining the brownouts, Lieberman said the the current staffing model uses a part-time reserve firefighter position that has little pay and few opportunities for a full-time career. He compared the compensation to the starting pay at Arroyo Grande’s In-N-Out Burger.

With plans to propose a new tax, Lieberman recommends that in the interim they take $20,800 from reserves to fund the full-time position and eliminate the part-time position.

In 2020, while state fire personnel received 10 percent reductions in pay because of issues related to the coronavirus, Five Cities Fire personnel received 2% pay increases and one-time lump sum payments of $1,000.

Of the fire authority’s 32 fire personnel, 15 make over $150,000 a year in salary and benefits, according to Transparent California.

Fire authority’s top earners in 2018:

  • Fire Engineer Joseph Silva – $219,130
  • Fire Chief Stephen Lieberman – $218,514
  • Fire Captain Paul Quinlan – $218,165
  • Fire Captain Brian Leathers – $207,459
  • Fire Battalion Chief Brian Salce – $200,152
  • Fire Captain Patric Ferguson – $198,007
  • Fire Battalion Chief Riki Heath – $190,608
  • Fire Captain John Bova – $186,826

Lieberman is scheduled to present his future plans at the Sept. 22 Oceano Community Services District Board meeting.

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Looks a little management heavy for such a small community!!!

Wasn’t there a parable about killing the golden goose!!!

There is also one about too many chiefs, and not enough… (oops, I guess I can’t say that one any more). I like MrYan’s idea.

Here’s a thought…..Fire one Captain and hire 4 new entry level fire fighters….

Or have all Captain’s take a 10% cut and hire 4 new fire fighters.

Long past time to dissolve the FCFA and contract out services. The FCFA model has failed at every turn, and will just continue to try and get the taxpayers to fund their failure.

Good point about the fire department requiring tax dollars in order to function.