While the bargaining units representing police and miscellaneous employees endured three years of cuts, increases in medical and retirement, and massive layoffs, the fire association has remained unscathed, until now. Unable to reach a compromise, and facing a $30-million dollar budget deficit, the Santa Ana City Council voted to outsource fire services. After 128 years, the Santa Ana Fire Department is schedules to be absorbed by the Orange County Fire Authority on April 20, 2012.
For the past 25 years, I have come to know many of the men and women who make up their ranks and have worked side by side with them at arson scenes, traffic collisions and shooting scenes. Arson Investigators took the time to share their knowledge with Crime Scene Investigators while Paramedics learned to preserve evidence at shooting scenes as they treated the injured.
When it came time to take of our own, police and fire would come together in the spirit of competition and host mixed martial art events appropriately named "Guns and Hoses" or "Battle of the Badges" to raise money for the Widows and Orphans Fund. Last September, members of the fire department joined members of the police department to host a neighborhood event celebrating the community spirit and unity that led to a reduction in crime in a once gang infested area.
So as the members of the Santa Ana Fire Department trade in their uniforms and are transferred among the 23 partner cities and unincorporated areas of Orange County, they take with them 128 years of tradition, 128 years of saving lives and 128 years of friendship.