Incoming fire chief Galagaza tackles BFD budget needs

Incoming Bakersfield Fire Chief Anthony Galagaza at the unveiling of the 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial in southwest Bakersfield on September 11, 2016.

BAKERSFIELD Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - As the summer heat scorches down on Bakersfield, fire season is just beginning to burn. stepping up to lead the fight, Battalion Chief Anthony Galagaza, soon to be Fire Chief Galagaza.

"Being that I'm a native of Bakersfield, born and raised here, I'm a 2nd generation firefighter of the Bakersfield City Fire Department, my dad is a retired captain. With 26 years here, this is my home. I love this community and I love this department," Galagaza said Friday.

After nine years as fire chief, Doug Greener announced earlier this year he'd be retiring at the end of June, leaving Galagaza with a department in need of a bigger budget.

"That 1 cent sales tax is just going to be critical," Galagaza said, referring to November's ballot, where voters will decide whether to hike the sales tax by one cent, which could bring in an estimated $50 million for city resources.

BFD responded to 41,000 calls in 2017, a 12 percent increase from 2016. But staffing has remained at the same level for the past decade, while the city has grown by over 60,000 people.

"We need to keep up with the city and we're far behind in that as far as staffing, but we can only do with what we have with the money we have," Galagaza said.

As incoming fire chief, Galagaza's three major goals include outlining a five year strategic plan for the department, implementing a data-driven community risk reduction plan to prevent fires before they start, and recruiting a more diverse fire team.

"I want this department to reflect what Bakersfield looks like," Galagaza said, "That's important to me, and I believe it's important to this city."

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