The fire was right across the street from his house. That’s what Salvador Perrones said while shooting the video of the March 23 two-alarm fire. Perrones captured the scene of flames shooting six feet above the roof of E&S Autoworks on West 11th Street. The auto body shop is located in the Westside District of National City. The Westside, populated by a mix of commercial, industrial and residential uses, is an example of the importance and value of National City’s own local Fire Department.
When the National City Fire Department received the call last month, they were able to respond within minutes to make sure that the fire was contained to only one business and that no National City residents were injured. To make sure that there were no remaining threats from the toxic and flammable chemicals used by the auto body shop, National City firefighters remained on the scene long after the fire was brought under control.
The National City Fire Department prevents the occurrence of destructive fires from starting through public education and code enforcement activities. For those fires that do occur, the National City Fire Department provides early confinement and extinguishment while minimizing the risk to life, property and the environment. Additionally, the National City Fire Department provides immediate rescue and medical aid to residents who become victims of sudden illness or accident.
National City residents rely on our own local police and fire departments to keep them safe. However, National City is dealing with ongoing budget challenges due to the millions of dollars the state has taken from the city to deal with its own budget shortfalls. In 2006, National City forecasted a $6.7 million deficit and cut city departmental costs 20 percent across the board, eliminating 17 police and firefighter positions. Subsequently, voters passed Proposition D, a local funding measure to help restore fire and police staffing and other city services.
National City’s budget is temporarily stable but Proposition D will expire soon. The City’s Three Year Operating Plan demonstrates that more than 70 percent of the city’s budget goes to police and fire protection. Without the revenue provided by Proposition D, which cannot be taken by the state, the city may have to contract out for emergency services rather than maintaining our own local police and fire departments. A recently conducted professional, community opinion survey of National City residents showed that 72 percent of respondents support a continuation of Proposition D. This summer, the city council will consider a ballot measure to continue Proposition D, with no increase in the tax rate. If enacted, these funds will continue to be used for National City services and cannot be taken by Sacramento. The continuation of Proposition D will ensure ongoing public safety funding and the highest level of locally controlled emergency medical services by maintaining National City’s own local Police and Fire Departments.
Parra is National City Director of Emergency Services.