San Jose Fire Dept. Slower than Reported

Since 2009, the San Jose Fire Department has responded to emergency calls slower than previously reported. The question is by how much.

In a memo sent out Friday by the city manager’s office, Fire Chief William McDonald explains that “data used in the calculation of the response-time measure were excluded in error.”

The errors were apparently caused by missing reports from fire companies responding to priority calls outside of their assigned areas. Reports for companies responding to emergency calls within their assigned areas were included in the response times, McDonald writes.

The first emergency response vehicle in San Jose is currently expected to arrive on scene within eight minutes, 80 percent of the time. Meanwhile, the national standard for the first company to arrive on scene is within 6 minutes, 90 percent of the time, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

A full report on the incorrect calculations will be released later this month at the Public Safety, Finance, and Strategic Support Committee meeting on Jan. 17.

The fire department had a reduction in staffing several years ago because its union refused a pay cut, unlike other public employee unions, but the city manager’s office has since worked to restaff the department by accepting federal grants the last two years.

Chief McDonald has yet to respond to a message seeking further comment.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.


  1. “The fire department had a reduction in staffing several years ago because its union refused a pay cut, unlike other public employee unions, but the city manager’s office has since worked to restaff the department by accepting federal grants the last two years”

    Or maybe the department had a reduction in staff because Mayor Reed and company have been diverting public safety money towards a debt ridden airport, convention center, low income housing, homeless property storage, an illegal measure B court fight?
    How about a little objective reporting Josh?

    • Amen. 

      How about looking at why surrounding agencies have better staffed departments per capita with better pay and those agencies/cities are not broke? Does anyone ask why SJ was running a deficit during some of the best economic times this country has seen? It is SJ’s inability to properly manage its finances. Please do not blame the employees who are doing their best to provide great service with less resources than most other departments in the country. It is the leadership to blame.

  2. Check your facts Josh.  Local 230 was the first city Union to agree to the City’s “10%” pay decrease.  All city workers, fire personnel included, took the “10%” hit.  Only some of the Sr. Managers working in the City Manager’s Office have somehow gotten some of that back.

    • Dozens of firefighters were laid off in July 2010. That would have been more precise than me saying “several years ago.” You are correct that the firefighters union has since accepted pay cuts along with other public employee unions.

      Thanks for reading,


      • Perhaps, but the statement that the firefighters “refused a pay cut, unlike other public employee unions” is a completely untrue statement.  This is the misleading style of writing I’ve come to expect from Seipel and Woolfolk.  I’d try and raise my writing bar a bit higher than those two.

  3. This post is incorrect.  Both police and fire unions took a 10% pay cut in 2011, check your facts, Josh.  And, the only reason that the department has been restaffed through SAFER grants is because people in the department worked hard to get the grants, not the city manager’s office.  Please, please get the facts straight before publishing these posts.  Additionally, our response times are not that great, this part is true.  What should be noted is the density of our stations and call volume compared to neighboring cities and districts such as Santa Clara County and Santa Clara City.

  4. Sounds Like Josh is getting spoon fed his information   from the city Manager. Its always amazing to see people who know nothing about a topic talk like they do . the only problem is , if you spew lies , someone will call you on it . Why dont you mention closing down companies along with laying off of Firefighters . Just like the Mayor , you want to blame public safety for the Citys problems.  what about the hundreds of millions given to an airport that is supposed to be self sufficient , or Money being thrown at the expansion of the convention center directly from the general fund , what about the constant building of low income housing( for Reeds Developer buddies) , or wasted monies defending an illegal ballot measure , that will surely be overturned in the courts costing san jose residents millions . Tool

    • VBS, you have but to read some of PLO’s past posts in which he discusses how the opposing majority on the council has frequently voted to add more and more low income housing. Then, take a look at the registered lobbyists and how many of them are developers. As well, take a look at the builders who are actually doing the construction of low-income housing. All the information is out there if you’re willing to pay attention, but a snarky dismissive post does little to enhance the conversation.

      Additionally, Sam Liccardo has proposed that various low-end motels be converted to low-income housing. This also was discussed in an earlier blog here on SJI.

  5. Well all we need now is the “Honorable” Pierluigi Oliverio to chime in with his analysis of the situation which will surely include some “cloud-based” staffing software preprogramed to show how 3 fire-fighters on a truck instead of 4 would have shortened response times…. Where has PLO been lately?

    • Better yet, watch the city come out and support Martin Monica for the new Chief.  Not only did he sue the city of SJ over his poor performance as a SJ police officer, he got hired by some unknown police department as their COP of about 25 officers.  Got fired from that job, ran for sherif here, lost.  Said he will stay here for 10 yrs (shoo wound not for a fat check) with support of the local “hate the police” groups and runs on community police.  Hate to say it, better Pete Constant be the next chief since that job is already in Chucks pocket.

  6. Good job Fire Chief Figone….good to see you and the Land Use Lobbyist ruining another department in your control.  I believe Nintendo has made an App to predict emergencies …it will only cost $650 million….I think?  Stay crappy San Jose

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