The transition team assigned to look into the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services has found that the department has been noncompliant with CNMI law for numerous reasons.
According to the transition report, prepared under the leadership of acting Fire chief Jesse Mesa, it said that DFEMS has been noncompliant with Public Law 18-73 or the “Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Act.”
One of the team’s findings of noncompliance was the Fire commissioner’s salary and the certification requirements needed to become the Fire chief.
The report states that the law requires the Fire commissioner position to have a salary of no less than and not to exceed $54,000 per annum, while deputy Fire commissioners for the islands of Rota and Tinian and each of the five divisions within Saipan’s DFEMS—which are appointee positions—should each have a salary of no less than and not exceed $42,000 per annum.
It said the law also requires compliance with National Fire Protection Association standards such as NFPA 1710, Standards for Fire Operations and NFPA 1000 series for firefighter certifications (National Professional Qualifications aka the Pro Board (NPQS) or the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress and the National Registry Emergency Medical Technician.
The transition team also found that the department has been working its firefighters 10 hours over the legal number of hours per pay period, as stated in Public Law 18-73.
“Numerous Fire personnel within the firefighting ranks are assigned in all divisions and all are working a 116-hour schedule. Public Law 18-73 states all firefighters shall work 24-hour shifts of up to 106 hours per pay period. The transition team requested justification for the 116-hour schedule for all Fire personnel regardless of duty assignment. The acting commissioner initiated the directive for working 116 hours per pay period regardless of what division the fire personnel are assigned to,” said the report.
The team recommended that Gov. Arnold I. Palacios reassess the legality of the directive issued by the acting fire chief and if such a drastic change requires the law to be amended or the issuance of a governor’s executive order.
The report went on to state that majority of the department’s morale is low.
“A survey was conducted [among] approximately 70 Fire personnel regarding leadership, morale, and welfare. Majority of the department morale is very low. Majority of the submittals complained about poor leadership and poor communication, from the leadership down to the low-ranking file. Some of the concerns are from personnel being promoted or re-assigned to another division and still working and getting paid 116 hours,” said the report.