CALEXICO — The Calexico Fire Department is at full staffing levels for the first time in years after the promotion of five firefighters and the hiring of two new firefighters.
Calexico fire responds to 3,800 to 4,000 calls in an average year and is unique in that it’s the only fire department to provide its own ambulance service.
With the promotions and new hires, the department will be able to decrease its overtime and corresponding burden on the city budget while increasing its quality of service, Calexico Fire Chief Peter Mercado said.
“The department is finally at 100 percent capacity in every job position, so it’s an extremely good time in our department,” Mercado said.
“It allows us to be more consistent with carrying out our normal operation. … We’re always trying to fill gaps and now it’s like everyone is where they’re supposed to be. We have a full deck of cards now.
“Overtime will never be eliminated but it will be decreased from previous years, because there are now less gaps to fill on a daily basis,” he added.
Every time a person left the department for whatever reason over the years, it created a ripple effect in position vacancies.
“To have a fire department fully-staffed is rare in these fiscal times,” Calexico City Manager Oscar Rodriquez said. “This is going to lend itself to providing better service and having people on so we don’t have to use overtime.”
A pinning ceremony Tuesday morning marked the promotions of Calexico firefighters Oscar Pesqueira, Juan Contreras, George Villanueva, Eduardo “Lalo” Rivera and Esteban Zambrano to the position of engineer as well as the recent hiring of firefighters Steven Palmieri and Kevin Lewis.
Firefighters Brandon Bowers, Eddie Ainza, Scott Kirksieck and Tyler Shook, who were all hired last year, were also removed from probationary firefighter status at the ceremony.
Family and friends packed the pinning ceremony that was often accented with laughter, proud tears and hugs.
Firefighters’ families are often also affected when a department isn’t fully staffed, and Mercado thanked them for their support as well.
“It takes off the workload of the people here,” Capt. Diego Favila said. “They’re not forced into overtime and get to go home. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
Juan Contreras Sr. pinned his son as he was promoted to engineer Tuesday.
“I feel really proud of him,” he said. “He’s hardworking, and I told him to go for it.”
“We’re very proud, very happy for him,” Esperanza Pesqueira said while smiling and watching her son take photos with other firefighters following the ceremony.
Mercado also thanked the Heffernan Memorial Healthcare board members for the multitude of funding donations made during the past couple of years including funding for new ambulances, medical oxygen machine, cardiac monitors and defibrillators.
“Anyone who lives here can see them (ambulances) going up the road 20 times a day, 4,000 times a year so they’re instrumental in us accomplishing our missions and goals,” he said.
As if to underscore the importance of the Tuesday’s ceremony, Calexico firefighters and some of the newly promoted engineers jumped in an ambulance and fire engine with sirens wailing as a call came in at the end of the ceremony.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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