Presidio Fire's transfer to The City raises concerns 

A deal to turn over the Presidio Fire Department to The City is all but complete, but concerns about lost jobs, slower response times in the Marin Headlands and possible budget overruns remain.

The fate of the 93-year-old fire station on national parkland has been in limbo for two years now as federal funding for two stations – in the Presidio and across the Golden Gate Bridge – has been pulled.

Now that a contract has been signed, the Board of Supervisors must approve it and will discuss the contract Wednesday at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting.

Under the deal, the Presidio Trust will reimburse the San Francisco Fire Department more than $3.5 million in the first year of the proposed 10-year contract. The National Park Service will also give money to The City: $756,875 for the first year.

With more than $4.3 million in federal funds, the Fire Department will operate the Presidio fire station under the name Station 51. A report from the budget and legislative analyst warns, however, that if the costs go beyond what the federal government has provided, The City must pay the rest.

Of the 32 firefighters and medical technicians who worked in the Presidio, the Fire Department this week sent letters to 15 saying they have a shot of making it as a San Francisco firefighter.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, whose district includes the Presidio, and the Fire Department see the agreement as a great way to save about half the jobs. Firefighting duties could have been taken over by a private company, leaving everyone scrambling for work, said Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge.

“If another entity had taken over firefighting and emergency medical services in the Presidio, the potential for all of the employees to lose their jobs would have been very high,” Talmadge said.

The head of the Presidio Professional Firefighters, Al Duncan, painted a grimmer picture for the remaining employees. While many are searching for work elsewhere in the federal system, the Presidio Fire Department was the only full service fire station run by the national government.

Duncan also worries that when an ambulance stationed at the Marin Headlands is pulled, it will result in slower response times for emergencies such as injured hikers.

But the headlands will still be staffed by park rangers who are trained emergency medical technicians. Also, the Southern Marin County Fire District is expected to sign an agreement to provide aid to the area. Southern Marin Fire Chief Jim Irving said he expects response times to be under 10 minutes for the farthest reaches of the national parkland.

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