Humboldt Bay Fire Says Lack of Trained Personnel Responsible for Suspending Life-Saving Swimmer Rescue Program

Hum Bay Fire FeaturePress release from Humboldt Bay Fire:

Humboldt Bay Fire announces to our community that we are forced to suspend the swimmer-based portion of our water rescue program due to a lack of trained, certified personnel to safely support a rescue in the water. This was announced to the department and allied agencies yesterday evening in an internal email sent by me, and seen here:

“Effective immediately, Humboldt Bay Fire must suspend the water-based swimmer portion of our water rescue program.

The overall number of personnel who are trained and certified as active water rescue personnel has declined to a point where we can no longer safely deploy a swimmer into the water and provide a second swimmer to assist, or to rescue the primary swimmer. Some days we have no swimmer on duty at all. This is a result of resignation of some personnel within the program, and lack of interest, time or ability of personnel to join the program and become trained in water rescue.

All water based rescue boards, swim cans, dry suits and wet suits shall be removed from the apparatus immediately, and stored at Station 1 in the mezzanine above the hose racks in the hose room. PFD’s, throw bags, and other shore based equipment will continue to be carried on the apparatus and utilized.

Humboldt Bay Fire will continue to respond to water rescue incidents with our current full response level. Our personnel will utilize shore based tactics, including reaching with long handled tools, throwing devices, and floating rescue lines. A full response will also allow personnel to get eyes on a subject in the water, and track their location for assistance and rescue by the Coast Guard, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, and Harbor District boat personnel. It will be imperative that these resources are notified immediately upon receipt of a water rescue incident response dispatch.

We have not arrived at this decision without considerable thought and review of the program. I do not take this decision lightly, as over the past 6-7 years the swimmer-based program has been responsible for a number of rescues of persons who ended up in the water due to one circumstance or another. Some of these persons would have drowned had it not been for the swift action of our swimmers.  In addition to the responsibility we hold to our community, we also have a responsibility to the safety of our personnel. Placing one swimmer in the water alone places that rescuer in significant risk, especially without a backup rescuer should the first rescuer need assistance.

If our number of trained and certified rescue swimmers increases in the future, we will review the program and determine whether we can again reinstitute a swimmer based rescue program. Until that time, we must remain shore based in our response. If you have questions, please contact myself, Deputy Chief Reynolds, Battalion Chief Hulbert, or your shift Battalion Chief.”

A press release sent out to the media late in the evening on June 5th from Humboldt Bay Firefighters Local 652 President Matt McFarland specified the reason for the suspension as “Humboldt Bay Fire has become unable to fund this program due to continued shortfalls in the budget.” Not only is this statement incorrect, it is false. The water rescue program has continued to be funded to provide for equipment replacement and purchase of new equipment, and training for new and existing members of the water rescue team.

The reason for the suspension remains a lack of trained and certified personnel willing to participate in the program. This is due to resignation of members from the team, and a lack of current new members wishing to become trained and certified. Over the past year, the team has lost five members, with very few showing interest to join. The current program has dropped to a level where only a few members remain, and this makes deploying a swimmer and a backup swimmer nearly impossible on any given day. The decision was the result of safety concerns for our personnel, not from budgetary shortfalls in the program.

The program has been successful over the past 7 years, where a group of team members were trained and equipped to be able to enter the water as a rescue swimmer. A number of successful rescues have been performed, including a few high profile incidents where persons were very close to their end when our swimmers got to the victim. Humboldt Bay Fire will continue to respond to water rescue calls in a shore-based capacity. It is our hope that we can again field a swimmer-based program at some point in the future as personnel show interest in becoming certified.

  • Laytonville Rock
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9 comments

  • Well that’s a horse of a different color. Did the fire chief just call the union head a liar in an official statement? I do believe he did.

  • I guess it sucks for us if we need a water rescue. Do the firemen get to decide what jobs they will do or don’t do?

    • The water rescue team is a specialty team that the firefighters can choose to join but are not required to like hazmat specialist or paramedics, but those specialties receive hazard pay but the swimmers do not.

      So why did they quit?

      It’s because the City of Eureka, not the #1 fire district, continue to take back money from the fire budget to pay for something else.

      It’s because the union firefighters have not received a pay raise, not even a cost of living, in ten years but the chiefs and administration continue to give themselves 5% pay raises while saying there is no money left for the firefighters.

      And it’s because the department gives the equipment but then expects the firefighters to volunteer, train, and risk there lives for no additional compensation and them blame them for quitting the team if the firefighters do not think it is fair.

      If the City and the Chief are serious about wanting a water rescue team, then they need to fund the people actually getting in the water with the equipment and extra hazard pay for doing more then the minimum the department requires and then risk their health, well being, and livelihood. They have families that they want to go home to too.

      • The funds likely are diverted to the Redevelopment or to the Economic Growth scams our councils are gullible to.
        Joining the coalition against the hidden governments (redevelopment and economic growth and many others), might be a good way to stop the diversions & to put the funds back where they belong. (I haven’t researched the coalition yet, but first impressions lead me to believe they’re on the up and up).
        http://www.coalitionforredevelopmentreform.org/references/morr.php

        Google: “Redevelopment: The unknown government”
        for more in depth info about their take over.

        • Try Googling “CA Ends Redevelopment”

          • Awesome! But the scam called Economic Growth and Sustainable living, are still going strong.
            Redevelopment is also still alive and well under other titles of endearment & pushed by congress critters.

      • Median income in Humboldt County is $42,197
        Per capita income is $23,367.
        Lowest paid fire fighter receives a little under $75,000 in pay and benefits and most can retire at age 50 and will take home more in retirement than when working.
        Humboldt Bay fire appears to very top heavy in ranks.
        24 Captains and Chiefs.
        16 Firefighters.
        17 Engineers
        Most Captains and Chiefs make 3 times the median Humboldt County income.
        Most Engineers make 2-2.5 times the median income.
        I can see why, when there is a job opening, people are lined up for an opportunity at getting one of these jobs.

  • IMHO, just another case of unions whining.

    • Triniboldticino

      I think if you look at the topheavy Administrative compensation packages and personnel that area agencies sustain versus what they are supposed to be doing, you might change your mind. But SHHHH! They don’t want you to hear that.

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