Michael J. Sorba, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/12/2010 03:18:40 PM PST

BIG BEAR LAKE – The firefighters union is concerned some members could lose their job, have it changed or be forced to work in another area if the city goes forward with the idea of outsourcing or merging with another fire agency, a union representative says.

Big Bear Lake Professional Firefighters, a branch of San Bernardino County Professional Firefighters Local 935, say it’s prudent to evaluate all options available to decide how fire service is delivered, but the impact to firefighters should also be considered, said Jeff Schwing, the union’s local representative.

“Regardless of what happens (the union) is going to be dedicated to providing the same service,” he said. “That’s what’s most important to us.”

The Big Bear Lake Fire Protection District has been the city’s fire agency since the city incorporated in 1980. Previously, the district had served the Big Bear Lake area since 1927.

Fire Chief Rod Ballard has said the San Bernardino County Fire Department and Cal Fire would be the most viable options if the City Council decided to outsource.

Joining forces with the neighboring Big Bear City Fire Department is the most logical choice for a merger, he said.

The prospect concerns union members, Schwing said, because the jobs of administrative secretaries and Assistant Fire Chief Mark E. Mills, who moved from South Carolina to work in the city, may not be absorbed by another agency.

Ballard has said all firefighters who aren’t on employment probation would transition to the new agency. While they’ll have jobs, Schwing says it’s likely district firefighters would be the first to be laid off if the absorbing agency, such as the county Fire Department, was forced to cut cost.

It’s also possible a fire prevention officer could see their job duties change, Schwing said. An overarching concern is being moved from Big Bear Lake to another station, Schwing said.

“We enjoy serving the community that we chose to work for,” he said.

Council members, who are also the fire district’s board of directors, say they’re open to the idea of asking other fire agencies what the costs would be to either absorb the district or merge with it, but no decisions have been made and the council may choose to retain the district.

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