The San Jose firefighters union claims that city officials were not upfront with the public about the impact of a reduction in resources caused by budget cuts.
The union played an audio recording at a news conference in San Jose Tuesday in which Geoff Cady, a fire department deputy director, discusses a meeting he had with San Jose City Manager Debra Figone and city spokesman Tom Manheim.
The recording is of Cady addressing an audience at an educational conference for police, fire and medical dispatch held in April in Orlando, Florida.
Cady discusses fire spread confinement, stating that when fire extends beyond the room of origin, there is likely an eight- to 10-fold increase in loss of life and property. He says that he relayed this information to Figone and Manheim.
"And the city's public information officer was sitting there and he gasped," Cady said. "And he said, 'well, the public will never accept that, and this is, you can't, you can't say that.'"
At another point during the hour-long speech, Cady states that a modeling software used by the fire department predicts a three percent reduction in performance, with the response time objective of eight minutes at 80 percent of the time dropping to 78 percent, which is below the city's adopted standard. He said that this would result in some districts experiencing a 20-point reduction in performance.
"This is a fairly significant reduction in performance in some of these districts," he said. "And as you can well imagine the council members that are responsible for those districts are having some serious heartache over this."
Robert Sapien, a 10-year veteran of the fire department, said that although stations 33 and 30 are most vulnerable, on a busy day any station could be vulnerable from a reduction in resources.
"In effect, the public trust has been violated," he said. "These are real life and death decisions and need to be shared with the public."
Last week the San Jose firefighters union overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by the city that would have allowed 49 recently laid-off firefighters to be rehired, calling the offer unfair.
More than 600 firefighters participated in the vote and about 88 percent voted against the city's proposal, which asks for an 8.9 percent cut in total compensation that would amount to a 14 percent pay cut.
After the vote, San Jose Firefighters Local 230 Vice President Jeff Welch said in a statement that Reed and the City Council are "misspending millions" and prioritizing spending on "high-priced consultants and a new fleet of cars" over public safety.
The city has said it was forced to lay off the firefighters after negotiations between the city and union stalled and a proposal put forward by the union failed to achieve the city's cost-cutting goals.
Local 230 President Randy Sekany said the layoffs, elimination of five fire companies and closure of one station have depleted the department's firefighting capacity.