A: Our KION Question came from Fozzie in Salinas.
He asked us, "Why does Soledad Fire turn away volunteer help? Shouldn't the city take all the help they can get?"
Here's the answer from Soledad's Fire Chief, Rich Foster:
The City Council authorizes the number of volunteers assigned to the Fire Department. We are authorized 17 volunteers. Once a year we test for the volunteer firefighter position and hire if we have openings, if not we establish an eligibility list that is good for one year. We have 6 candidates currently on an eligibility list.
The reason we establish a set number of volunteers is there is a cost to hire them. By the time we do pre employment medicals and outfit them with all the safety equipment it can cost around $4,000 a person. We also pay volunteers a stipend for standby time and they are paid per call. This is to offset their expenses of traveling to the fire station. Each year we budget for this expense to support 17 volunteers.