San Jose Serial Arsonist Sparks Concerns About Fire Department Staffing

By Damian Trujillo
|  Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014  |  Updated 5:54 PM PDT
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The search for the San Jose serial arsonist is rekindling worries about staffing levels in the fire department. Damian Trujillo reports.

The search for the San Jose serial arsonist is rekindling worries about staffing levels in the fire department. Damian Trujillo reports.

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The search for a San Jose serial arsonist is rekindling worries about staffing levels in the fire department.

The concern is compounded in several San Jose neighborhoods, where those communities have lost either a fire engine, or even the entire station due to budget cuts.

Firefighters said the lack of resources has impacted their duties.

"We're really not effective when it comes to those stations in putting out fires immediately," Battalion Chief Robert Sapien said.

Sapien, who also is the president of the firefighters union, was the incident commander when a fire broke out during the summer on Auzerais Avenue, across the street from a Fire Station 30.

MORE: Serial Arsonist Puts San Jose Residents on Alert

Firefighters were unable to knock down the blaze because the engine at the station was eliminated due to budget cuts. Crews could only watch the house across the street burn and prepare while waiting for an engine with water and hoses to come from another station.

"Right now we are so thin that we are not really providing the services that we should provide," Sapien said.

Residents are concerned about the drop in staff at the fire department.

The president of the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association said his community is now left virtually unprotected with all the resources being poured into fighting the recent string of arsons.

Councilman Sam Liccardo, who is running for mayor, said the city has to find ways to hire more crews.

In the meantime, Liccardo said the department might have to change the way it responds to calls.

"We know over 90 percent of our calls are medical calls," Liccardo said. "And the ability to get to there with small units and a paramedic is a much more effective way to be able to deploy people than having these giant trucks responding to medical emergencies."

The city is currently negotiating that tactic with the firefighters union.

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