Town Square

New Palo Alto Fire Chief Eric Nickel sworn in

Original post made on Jan 19, 2013

After two and a half years without a permanent fire chief, Palo Alto held a promotional ceremony Thursday, Jan. 17, for Eric Nickel, the former Novato deputy fire chief hired to lead Palo Alto's $26.6 million department.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 18, 2013, 1:02 PM


Posted by NCaifornia, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2013 at 8:55 am

NCaifornia is a registered user.

is the budget amount a misprint?

Little Rock AK (find it quickly in search) has a population of 200,000; much bigger square mileage; responds to 25,000 incidents a year; and had a budget of $31M in 2008. Web Link

Some other old information on other cities as well at Web Link

We "appear" to be very pricey. Perhaps apples to organs comparisons or are we really that expensive? Also, perhaps healthcare and pensions have skyrocketed recently?

Posted by NCaifornia, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2013 at 8:56 am

NCaifornia is a registered user.

Sorry for typos, writing on mobile phone!

Posted by Nonny Mouse, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2013 at 9:24 am

No, we are really that pricey, and we are really that stupid to pay that much for a fire chief.

Posted by Sylvia, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2013 at 9:31 am

Another overpaid fireman!

Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 19, 2013 at 10:10 am

Outsource them all now. As is, my children will be paying for today's glorified paramedics' six figure pension when retire at 55.

What a waste of money. We could have a better service if we outsourced to something market rate.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 19, 2013 at 10:25 am

It will be interesting to see if this fellow does anything to justify his salary. There are currently almost no metrics for Department heads, in terms of performance. The City Council does not have any control, other than budget, to make recommendations that have any force, and the City Manager does not seem to be moving towards creating a transparent framework for operating the municipal government.

All-in-all, government in Palo Alto seems to be getting more expensive, less transparent, and very hard to understand--in terms of cost/benefit.

Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Maybe I missed something? Little Rock AK? The average home in Little Rock is about $160,000 and household income is about $50,000. Both below national average.
I fail to see how anyone can compare Palo Alto Ca salaries with Little Rock AK.

Posted by NCaifornia, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2013 at 8:02 pm

NCaifornia is a registered user.

The fire department in Little Rock responds to more than 4x the number of incidents, covers an area 5x larger in terms of square miles, and had a population more than 3x that of Palo Alto and has a roughly similar budget. I cannot believe that it costs 3x-5x more in Palo Alto than Little Rock to provide comparable services. Moreover, I would guess we are in the top 10% of costly fire departments nationally.

Why doesn't the City benchmark and provide the results?

I am not opposed to paying firefighters a hefty amount over the benchmarks due to the cost of living in the Bay Area. They are extremely valuable public employees and they risk their lives for us.

However, I just do not understand how we are so much more expensive.

Sorry for the typos, on a mobile device.

Posted by Michael, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2013 at 8:26 am

The rudeness on these boards gets old. I for one will simply welcome the new chief to our community and wish him the best of luck.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm

According to, the average price for a home:

Little Rock = $91/sqft
Palo Alto = $979/sqft

I think you have your answer right there.

Posted by Kate, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I sooo agree with Michael! Welcome Chief Nickel! I hope you enjoy the wonderful city of Palo Alto and their outstanding Firefighters!!

Posted by Bill, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 20, 2013 at 9:31 pm

The avg price for a home doesn't matter. It's the pensions that this new council deals to get under control. Having a private paramedic company where the city doesn't have to paid into medical and pension fund should be look at. Firemen making six figures pensions after retiring at age 55 is insane! The city cannot afford this craziness any longer.

Posted by Me, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2013 at 11:30 am

Here's a suggestion, move to Little Rock. The cost of living is way less, think of the gigantic homes you could all buy when you sell your 2 million dollar Palo Alto homes? You could live your life stress free and not have to worry about city employee pensions and benefits.

Posted by Welcome Wagon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I'm with you, Michael and Kate - Welcome Chief Nickel! I love your vision and wish you much success with it to the benefit of our community. Don't mind the trolls, they are a permanent fixture on this list and don't represent the community as a whole.