Fresno Fire Department in line for budget boost

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- After years of budget cuts, the Fresno Fire Department is getting a boost this year. The city administration is pushing for an almost $1 million budget increase, while some city council members want even more.

The addition of a dozen new firefighters means there will be three more on duty on each shift every day. It may not sound like much, but Chief Keri Donis says it will be a big help.

Donis said, "To bring a truck company back into the city to go from 70 firefighters on each day to 73 is a great step in the right direction."

But that's still 10 firefighters less on duty each day than there were 20 years ago. The Chief is also hoping to add at least two fire inspectors. The city council cut four from the department last year because of grumbling from some business owners. In a move to be business friendly the city shifted to a self-inspection program, which the chief says, hasn't worked.

Donis explained, "We weren't very successful with those self-inspections, about 20 percent of the businesses returned those."

So, the chief wants to inspect most large businesses at least every four years, and give small business owners a chance to maintain the self-inspection program.

In a surprise development the chief welcomed a move by city council member Esmerelda Soria to restore the fire investigators.

Donis said, "That would be a tremendous help for the fires we do have in the city and the arsonists to have an investigator on scene as soon as that fire occurs to start investigating to start interviewing witnesses."

The four investigators would cost about $350 thousand a year. But it's not in the mayor's proposed budget for the department and City Manager Bruce Rudd noted it's just one of many additions that will be considered.

Rudd said, "We will just put it on the list and sort through this list."

Mayor Ashley Swearengin is behind a proposal to replace the department's trucks and other vehicles over the next eight years, and smaller things like renovating the 80-year-old maintenance shop. Overall, Chief Donis is pleased the department is on the rebound.

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