A well known vintner in California’s famed Napa Valley has gotten a bit of attention as of late for a letter he wrote to his local paper, the St. Helena Star.

In the letter (Read the full version HERE) he called out the salaries and benefits of his local firefighters in a manner very common recently.

“Had I had any real brains I would have become a firefighter. What a racket they have.

While I respect the work they do and the inherent dangers, they are greatly overpaid, work only two days a week (a third of which they sleep) and get to retire at 50 years old at 90 percent of their pay after working 30 years.

But maybe getting paid 90 percent of one’s maximum pay for another 25-30 years for doing nothing isn’t so unjust, as they received high salaries for working very little before they retired.”

The common misconception that firefighters are lounged back in recliners watching Judge Judy, all the while collecting outrageous salaries is supported by this man, Mr Sattui, and uses claims of salary and benefits, hours and activities as examples or firefighters wasting tax payer money.

Yet I still imagine the life of a winery owner as all relaxation and sipping fine wine with the social elite.  Clearly I have no clue as to the winery business, so I’ll leave my assumptions there.  Writing to my local paper about the excesses of the industry when I have no experience in it would indeed be foolish.

But my interest is not necessarily as a firefighter, or amateur wine snob.  You see, I didn’t read this in the St Helena Star, or on their website.  Not in the newspaper here at home or on the evening news, but it was on the dreaded facebook I first read these words and became angry.

It is his right and choice to write a letter of this nature, fact or fiction.  But something stuck with me, understandably. “How dare this man attack me!” was my first reaction, and that of a great many fans of the Anti-Sattui winery facebook group that sprouted almost out of nowhere.  Comments calling for his  resignation, and worse, were littered with persons names, department affiliations and very colorful opinions.

Opinions that could land one in hot water.

So then I began to wonder what Mr Sattui really meant when he wrote his letter to the editor.  Sure he makes sure not to blame the firefighters directly for being lazy holy cash cows (my words, not his) he blames the new bad guy, the career politician.

After all, the union contract that awards such salaries and benefits was agreed to by elected officials, so why not be upset at them?

As I was reading through the rants and raves in the facebook group, the membership continued to grow and suddenly, a response was posted by Mr Sattui “clarifying” his remarks.

Ted Appel at Watch Sonoma County reports that Mr Sattui wished to address the negative comments swirling through the interwebs machine (my words, not his).  Read the complete report at the above link.

“Napa cannot fix the roads, has chronically underfunded schools, has in some instances let sewage water that is not sufficiently treated spill out causing environmental damage because the county is so underfunded in its infrastructure needs that it cannot afford to fix it. Yet we have firefighters whose jobs are, according to them, identical in 90% of their duties to paramedics. But these Napa County paramedics make only about $50,000 a year with much lower benefits. The firefighters in Napa make about 140K on average and many make much more than that.”

He has a point that I think Mr Kaiser from Life Under the Lights has covered many a time over.  Not the part where firefighter’s benefits are constantly added to their salaries, as if the $26,000 healthcare tab is something I’m paid, or my vision plan, or my retirement contribution, etc etc, but the lack of competitive salaries for EMS providers.

It is comments from the public like this that inspire me more and more to redouble our efforts at public education into just what it is fire and EMS personnel do on a daily basis.

And to remind all of us that there is a section of the population that doesn’t like what you do, no matter what that is.

I went to the Watch Sonoma site and left my personal opinion and if this is a topic that inspires you to action, in either direction, please do so civilly and respectfully.

And another interesting thought as I leave you,

Without someone monitoring social media, would Mr Sattui have posted a response so quickly?

Clearly he will be watching the forums a bit more closely from now on.

Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Why not leave a comment or subscribe to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader?