The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

November 11, 2010
The Money Trail: Who pays for big turnout at firefighter memorials?

The large turnout of firefighters and engines from agencies throughout the region for the recent memorial services for a Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District employee led a reader to ask who foots the bill for such participation.

The reader expressed appreciation for those wanting to honor a colleague who died in the line of duty but wondered about the overall impact on strained budgets and services.

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District spokesman Capt. Christian Pebbles said a certain number of on-duty personnel are allowed to attend without depleting the firefighting force, and other agencies help by staffing stations. When those agencies suffer losses, Sac Metro returns the favor.

"Basically, it's a respect thing," Pebbles said. "Everybody takes a bit of a hit to put on the show."

Off-duty firefighters attending such services do so on their own time. Essentially, Pebbles said, the cost for fire personnel and equipment is no different from any other day, except for fuel and wear and tear on vehicles. Those costs come out of the district's general operating funds.

Sacramento County Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Tim Curran said his agency follows a similar practice. On-duty personnel are allowed to attend services with the permission of their supervisor, as staffing allows.

Off-duty employees who attend do so on their own time. "We don't allow overtime," Curran said.

Fuel usually accounts for the extra cost, he said.

- Cathy Locke

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