New Fire Chief Wins Over Support of East Davis Fire Protection District

Trauernicht-Nathan
Fire Chief Nathan Trauernicht

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

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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10 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    I would strongly urge any city council candidate , or any concerned member of the community who has not done so to have a conversation with Nate Trauernicht. Nate is a remarkable asset to our community demonstrating both an excellent fund of knowledge with regard to current thought about the efficient delivery of safety and emergency services providing references to programs in other communities combined with a willingness to listen and respond to questions and concerns.

    1. Matt Williams

      I would strongly urge any city council candidate , or any concerned member of the community who has not done so to have a conversation with Dave Ewing. Dave is a remarkable asset to our community demonstrating both an excellent fund of knowledge with regard to current thought about the efficient delivery of safety and emergency services providing references to programs in other communities combined with a willingness to listen and respond to questions and concerns.

      I have known Dave as a neighbor for 15 years. The fact that he has stepped forward to update the community on this key fire issue comes as no surprise. Dave is a “stand-up” person who isn’t afraid of the consequences of being occasionally wrong. His statement is a ringing endorsement we should all listen to.

  2. Barack Palin

    I want to commend the firefighters, yes I said commend, for doing a good job with the new boundries and staffing reductions even though many of them were against the new realignment. It shows their professionalism that they’re making this work.

  3. PhilColeman

    “Last year the city made a series of changes to the fire service which included increased response time . . .”

    Possibly this sentence was intended to say “decreased” rather than “increased.”

  4. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    Maybe all 10 of the “leaders” who signed the letters which contended that this reform would harm Davis will have the guts to apologize?

    While I will not hold my breath waiting for any of them to say they are sorry for their attempt to corrupt the process–I don’t believe in any cases this was ever an honest difference of opinion–I suspect that at least half of them had no idea at the time what the letter they signed said and now most of them could not explain their side of the issue with any factual support or deductive reasoning. More than anything else–like so much in politics–I think this was a case of people who generally have positive feelings toward Bobby Weist and his union and they only signed because Captain Weist asked them to or one of the other signers, who they trust, did Weist’s bidding.

  5. Tia Will

    Rifs

    I think this assessment may be a little harsh. There is some limited data from field experiments that suggests that “four on a truck” does lead to a shorter time to extinguish a fire in a controlled setting. Whether or not this has any real world significance is of course another matter. But I was wrong that there was no evidence suggesting the superiority of four over three. While I was wrong about the lack of evidence, I see no need to apologize for being incorrect as long as I am willing to admit my error. I also do not expect our public officials to apologize for a mistaken perception, I would much rather that they simply acknowledge the error, and join with Nate Trauernicht and those who would lead us in developing a better model of collaborative emergency service. After all, isn’t that the real point of all this ?

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      Tia, the letters were written in opposition to the change in executive management, going to the shared management model that is now in place. I was not referring to the 4-4-4 vs. 3-3-3-2 staffing in my post.

      1. Davis Progressive

        largely agree with rich rifkin, david reported none of them met with the city or ucd. had the concerns been legitimate they would have sought out all possible avenues for exploration.

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