Big Bear News – Big Bear Lake – In a press release issued by the Big Bear Fire Authority Board of Directors, the Board responded to Union demands by issuing a statement that they appreciate and share many of the concerns expressed by the Big Bear Professional Firefighters Union Local 935, including strained relationships among Department employees, and the challenging financial realities faced by the Fire Authority.
To this end the Big Bear Fire Authority Board recently initiated an Ad Hoc Personnel Committee, seeking to better understand Union allegations, to promote common understanding, and to identify effective ways to improve employee relations. They are hoping the Union representatives will, in good faith, join Board members in this effort.
It is important to note the Board’s responsibility to ensure all Fire Authority employees, from Fire Chief to firefighter, are afforded every reasonable opportunity to perform successfully in their roles. No one can or should be terminated without due process.
Specific to Fire Chief Willis, the Board has identified his 3 key goals for the 2023-24 fiscal year: 1.) Budget – Improve Big Bear Fire Authority’s current financial position and long term outlook 2.) Personnel – Improve relationships, communication, and accountability with all stakeholders 3.) Safety – Improve community safety and trust In order to accomplish these goals, Chief Willis and the Fire Authority Board will meet regularly throughout the year to assess the organization’s progress. The Board also respectfully requests that the entire Big Bear community, including all our Fire Department employees, support these efforts for the safety of our community and for the sake of our future.
Over the last decade, the Big Bear Fire Authority has taken many steps to improve its operations and the community’s safety, including a cost saving consolidation of Big Bear City and Big Bear Lake Fire Departments, a ballot measure to further increase safety and service capacity, adoption of an efficient “Ambulance Operator” model that reduces costs and increases targeted staffing, and significant increases to firefighter pay and equipment in response to the previous Vote of No Confidence.
They are hopeful the Union will join them in a reasonable and balanced approach to improving Big Bear Fire by operating within our financial means, by building public trust in the Fire Department, and by avoiding rhetoric and tactics that do not further their shared vision.
The Big Bear Fire Authority Board of Directors appreciate the dedication of our firefighters, the staff who support them, and the chiefs who manage them. While they do their best to support all Fire Authority employees, they also have a responsibility to support our Big Bear Valley community members, and will continue to explore all available options for effective local emergency services.