It was almost a year ago on April 30, 2013, that the Davis City Council was asked to weigh in on reduction of fire staffing. At the time, Dave Ewing, Chair of the East Davis County Fire Protection District Commissioners, weighed in, in opposition to fire staff reductions.
He followed up a letter to the city from February, and argued, “You cannot even convince me that by hiring even the UC Davis fire staffing, that three persons responding to a grass fire or structure fire in our district is an improved benefit and service to our district.”
He argued that, looking at the map, there is no way that the east protection district will be well-served by the move and he went so far as to argue that this is in violation of a 20-year contract between the city of Davis and the fire protection district.
“We pay six percent of your annual budget, you’re unilaterally reducing our service and we don’t think it’s a good think with regards to station 33,” Mr. Ewing told council at the time.
At that time, Police Chief Landy Black was heading up the administrative portion of the fire department, and in response he pointed out that, by decoupling the rescue apparatus, the East Davis fire station will be staffed more often and be better able to respond.
A year later and Mr. Ewing clearly believes the entirety of the planning is working to fully protect the fire protection district.
His letter to the city council and Supervisor Jim Provenza states that the district commissioners “want to express our appreciation for the City’s implementation of shared management of the City of Davis and DC Davis Fire Services and the appointment of Nate Trauernicht as Fire Chief to lead both fire departments.”
“We know this was a thoughtful decision after a long period of evaluation, studies, meetings and interviews,” he continues. “We believe this managed coordination of both departments which followed the dropped boundaries separating the response districts will provide better fire services to our District and all other areas served by these two fire services.”
He adds, “We commend the City for taking these steps to reduce cost and improve fire services.”
Mr. Ewing, in the letter co-signed by Linda Boutin, the Vice Chair, and fellow Commissioners Cheryl Ewing, Patrick Reynolds and Michael McMahon, explained, “Chief Trauernicht began attending our Commissioners meetings this past January. We appreciate his enthusiasm, optimism and vision for a successful shared management of the two fire departments.”
They add, “He is 100% dedicated to the firefighters and staff in both departments and we believe he has the necessary leadership skills to make the shared management plan a success.”
He continues, “We are particularly impressed with Chief Trauernicht’ s passion for the training and safety of all fire fighters.”
“The EDCFPD has a longstanding working relationship with the City of Davis for fire protection and related services. The city fire department has consistently provided EDCFPD with outstanding fire protection and related services. We are hopeful the one year shared management trial period will exceed all objectives and become the permanent management of the two fire services,” the letter explained.
Last year the city made a series of changes to the fire service which included increased response time, boundary drop to allow UC Davis units to be the first in responders regardless of location, and the more controversial fire staffing change and shared fire management.
On April 30, the city of Davis implemented fire staffing reductions from 12 to 11 on a shift by a 3-2 vote. In December, the council by a similar vote approved a joint management agreement on fire.
Senator Lois Wolk, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, Supervisors Don Saylor and Jim Provenza and former Supervisor Helen Thomson wrote a letter to the Davis City Council opposing the agreement.
The letter argues, “We believe that governance of public safety is and must remain a core function of the elected City Council of Davis. Community oversight and accountability is an important element of municipal services.”
They write, “We urge the Davis City Council to take another look at the serious long-range consequences of this proposal before contracting out any of these core municipal functions. There is a key difference between sharing or coordinating services and merging governance with the constitutionally separate and unelected Regents and Chancellor.”
Supervisor Provenza told the Vanguard, his objection was that Davis would not be the lead agency. He said, “As I understood it, the City of Davis was the lead in the prior model with the Davis Fire Chief in charge. A big difference. The trend has been to shift authority to cities in communities with a university. It is essential that police and fire departments be directly accountable to elected officials.”
In his report to council, Chief Trauernicht believes that data demonstrates that the current configuration is working as anticipated, and counters concerns that the changes, particularly the reduction of personnel from 12 to 11, would result in longer response times.
He analyzed the impact of boundary drop. He writes, “The following data was compiled by Davis Dispatch, and illustrates the effects of the boundary drop with the UC Davis Fire Department. The comparison… shows two periods of time: the first is a period of time before the boundary drop took effect, and the second is a comparable length of time following the boundary drop implementation.”
The chief concludes, “The data provided by Davis Dispatch illustrates a reduction of Davis Fire Department resource re-allocations from Stations 32 and 33, located in West Davis and South Davis respectively, to cover the first-in area of Station 31, which covers downtown Davis. Following the boundary drop, in many instances where an engine move up was required to provide coverage for Station 31’s first-in area, UC Davis’ Engine 34 was the closest resource and provided coverage. This allowed Engines 32 and 33 to remain in their respective first-in areas.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting