SANTA ANA, CA – The City of Santa Ana, Calif., decided to disband its fire department, voting instead to pay the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) to provide fire services. The department will formally stop providing services on April 20, 2012. The City estimates the new agreement will save the City between $8.6 million and $10 million.

Since the City’s Facilities, Fleet Management, and Central Stores (FMCS) division provides maintenance and repair services for the Santa Ana Fire Department’s vehicles and equipment, Government Fleet magazine contacted Santa Ana’s Facilities, Fleet, and Stores Manager Rick Longobart about the impact this change in City services will have on the division he manages.

Longobart said his department will not be supporting any of the OCFA’s vehicles and that despite this change, the department won’t be undergoing major changes.

“Our operation will remain unchanged, with regard to day-to-day operations and the workforce,” Longobart said. “We have a number of positions on hold and haven’t filled them due to too many unknowns. We also feel that we can streamline our operation and reduce our costs by newer technology, looking at our maintenance operation, and doing things differently than in the past, working smarter not harder.”

The FMCS currently has 12 vacant positions, some unfilled due to departmental veterans accepting early retirement offers, others having been vacant due to uncertainty regarding City revenues.

As for the fire department vehicles in Santa Ana’s fleet, Longobart said 26 will go to the County. The 64 administrative vehicles the fire department used will go to other City departments, thereby giving them newer vehicles than they would have had access to otherwise.

“We do have an aging fleet, and people haven’t gotten vehicles replaced because of a lack of replacement money. We’ll take those newer, pristine vehicles, and redeploy them where people haven’t had the opportunity to get new ones. The vehicles that we can’t find homes for, we’ll auction off,” Longobart said. “Some people will get new vehicles, which will decrease the size of the aging fleet, and reduce our maintenance costs. Also, the newer vehicles get better fuel economy, so that will save money.”

After FMCS completes the process of shifting vehicles and labor to accommodate the change in required services, the fleet will have roughly 663 vehicles. This is down from a high of 900 when Longobart started in the spring of 2010. Longobart had already focused on right-sizing fleet operations, bringing it down to 753 before the City decided to disband the fire department.

Longobart sees this change as a way to become more competitive and cost-effective, and that he intends to continue to focus on making FMCS’ operations more efficient and competitive.

“If we can do more with less, and reduce our budget, it’s a win-win situation,” he said. 

By Greg Basich