By Emilie St. John
COMPTON — Members of the Compton Fire Department announced they have a new contract with the city Sept. 2.
“After a long five-year journey, we were able to cross the hurdle that your Compton firefighters were facing,” Compton firefighters said in a statement issued on their social media account. “We were able to come to an agreement and ratify a contract between the union and the city that will expire on June 30, 2024.
“Ratification of this contract is one step closer to possibly slowing down your firefighters leaving to other agencies, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
The department did not disclose the details of the new contract, but residents were happy to hear the situation is resolved, as of now.
“I appreciate you men and women for putting the people before yourselves,” wrote Comptonrida1 in response to the news.
Compton firefighters have been holding public demonstrations going back to last September and have been at the weekly City Council meetings bringing awareness to their poor work conditions, lack of contract and lack of equipment needed to perform their jobs.
“At times it is very, very difficult to do our job,” said Antonio Chavez, a Compton firefighter and the vice president of the union, Local 2216. “We are having to work eight days straight, so we’re talking eight 24-hour shifts.
“We have a staffing shortage which has our current staff working eight 24-hour shifts without stop with a 12-hour break in between just to come right back and work another eight days which is not safe for them or our community.
“Our stations are broken down, our equipment is broken down. We’re not hiring. We’re not looking into why we’re having retention issues,” Chavez said.
“If we have any significant or major alarm, we have to rely on outside agencies to provide that aerial capability,” said Daniel Salazar, a Compton firefighter and president of Local 2216. “It is due to the ladder not being certified to go above a certain level which is of concern with new housing developments being approved which exceed levels the ladder is capable of reaching.
Former City Manager Craig Cornwell once posted a photo on his social media account in front of one of the fire stations with a caption that read “Compton Fire Department: We deserve new parking lots and driveways at our Fire Stations. Me” and he was standing in front of heavy equipment that broke up the sidewalk.
“We just don’t have the money to do everything at one time, so we’re trying to put a plan in place to address the concerns of the fire department,” Compton Mayor Emma Sharif said.
City budgets show Compton’s fire department has seen a 23% decrease in funds from about $19.2 million in fiscal year 2019 to $14.7 million in fiscal year 2022. All this, for a department that’s among the top five busiest in the state, responding to an average of about 10,000 calls per year according to the city’s website.
Long-time resident Robert Ray regularly heaps praise on the fire department for saving his life.
“If it weren’t for the fire department, I wouldn’t be alive,” Ray said.
The City Council was dark during the month of August and resumed council meetings on Sept. 5.
The city has yet to issue an official statement about the new contract.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at email@example.com.