Sanger firefighters call for chief’s extinguishing

Sanger Firefighters Association announces a vote of no confidence in Fire Chief Greg Tarascou, says firefighters want to see a more forward-thinking leader

Sanger Fire Department located at 601 West Ave. Sanger, CA 93657 (Kenny Goodman)
Sanger Fire Department located at 601 West Ave. Sanger, CA 93657 (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published February 21, 2024  • 
1:00 pm

SANGER – Frustrated and fed up with the current state of their department, Sanger firefighters are asking the city to remove the fire chief from his post. 

The Sanger Firefighters Association Local 1809 union announced on Feb. 16 that its members took a unanimous vote of no confidence against Fire Chief Greg Tarascou, meaning they do not have confidence in his leadership of the fire department. Union President Todd Wilson cited a lack of communication, poor morale and personnel turnover as motivating factors for the vote. 

“We didn’t really consider the timing, there’s not a good time to do this — we didn’t want to do this — but it’s just frustration, finally,” Wilson said. “We’ve discussed this in union meetings for at least two years … and now we unanimously voted for that vote of no confidence at the end of November.” 

Wilson said that after the union took the vote of no confidence in November, members conducted research on what the next steps would be, drafted a letter of no confidence to send to the city and then waited one week for a response from the city before posting about the vote publicly. 

The Sanger Firefighters Association emphasized that the vote will not have any impact on the department’s response to calls for service. 

On Feb. 9, the association sent a detailed letter of no confidence to Tarascou, Interim City Manager Greg Garner and all Sanger City Council members, Wilson said. The association then posted a shortened version of the letter to its Facebook and Instagram pages on Feb. 16. 

In a statement sent to the Mid Valley Times, Tarascou said that first and foremost, the protection and safety of the community “will always be paramount for the fire department here in Sanger.” 

“However, the city considers this a top priority, and the city manager and I look forward to meeting with the SFA’s leadership as soon as possible to hear their perspectives and to determine appropriate next steps,” Tarascou said.

The city of Sanger said it is unable to comment on the vote because it is a personnel matter. 

Wilson said that with the new city manager, Nathan Olson, coming on board on Feb. 23, he’s hoping to sit down with Olson to explain the association’s side of the story and see what can be done. 

“We’re asking for his (Tarascou’s) resignation,” Wilson said. “I don’t know if the city will act; this is all we can do. This is our last resort.”

According to the Sanger Firefighters Association, these concerns have been previously communicated to Tarascou over the last few years, but “were consistently met with apathy,” the letter of no confidence said.

“I want to say that we feel that Greg Tarascou did well his first five years or so as chief, it’s just been a slow decline since roughly 2017, and it just gets worse and worse,” Wilson said. “At this point, there’s absolutely no communication; we don’t know if he’s in the office, we don’t know if he’s out of town … it makes it hard to do our jobs.” 

The main complaints the association has about Tarascou have to do with a lack of communication and overall low morale that firefighters feel has led to high personnel turnover in the last few years. 

When fully staffed, Sanger employs approximately 24 operational firefighters, Wilson said. By his estimate, 24 people have left the department since 2020, leaving a gap in middle-ground experience, as the remaining firefighters are either about to retire or are in the first few years of their firefighting careers. 

Wilson said there has also been a decline in firefighters hired by the department who are also certified as paramedics, which is essential to the Sanger department’s operations because the firefighters run two ambulances for the city. 

Paramedics, as opposed to EMTs, have a higher level of certification and are authorized to administer life-saving drugs, intubation and IVs, Wilson said. Wilson said paramedic positions have been replaced with EMTs, “so it gives an illusion that we’re fully staffed, but there are days we can run only one paramedic ambulance.” 

The Sanger Firefighters Association would like to see the department grow with the city, which they feel is not happening right now. 

“Our hope for the future is to bring in a new chief, a new set of eyes that’s progressive, that looks at our department and wants to take it into the future,” Wilson said.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter