Considering recent contract negotiations and the ensuing election-related discourse surrounding the Fairfield Fire Department, I want to reiterate our commitment to public safety and the responsible approach we’ve taken throughout the process. Over my two decades as a Fire Chief, I have consistently prioritized public safety through collaboration with the department, town leadership, relevant boards, and commissions. A collaborative approach leads to the most comprehensive and responsible outcomes.
The arbitration process the Union opted to engage requires both the union and the town to present their proposals, with an arbitration panel making individual determinations on each issue. This process results in a final award, subject to rejection by the RTM. On August 7, 2023, the RTM upheld the panel’s decision. Both the Union and Management publicly supported the awards as positive for their goals and for the town.
Wages and staffing were the primary issues under arbitration, with the town’s proposals for each being awarded by the panel, while the union’s case did not succeed. Union claims were not sufficiently compelling to prevail in arbitration, and the new tactic appears to make contract objectives an election issue. Contrary to recent public comments, the town has consistently supported the Fire Department’s needs.
The Fire Department will be hiring four additional firefighters, increasing the on-duty staffing to 24. The town added a Fire Inspector, with plans for an additional Inspector to be requested in the upcoming budget cycle. Despite claims to the contrary, Fairfield fire staffing does align with similar communities, and the training division has been enhanced by moving a coordinator from part-time to full-time. All of these new hires and changes were done with the full support and advocacy of the First Selectwoman and myself.
We are also conducting a comprehensive Fire Station and Staffing Study to address the community’s growth and demands. This process is transparent and independent. The results of the study will help us balance response capabilities, response times, and personnel on duty while considering financial implications.
As Fire Chief, I am proud of the work our firefighters do every day. The comments I receive from the public reflect their professionalism and compassion for those we serve. I look forward to ongoing support from the administration for the Department’s requirements arising from the Station and Staffing Study, along with our extensively documented funding requests in both our Operating and Capital Budgets.
Chief Denis McCarthy
Fairfield Fire Department