New Report Backs Off Central Fire Station Move, More

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firefighters-friends-of-2When the council voted 3-2 to enter into a shared services agreement with UC Davis to share management over the two agencies’ fire services, the Davis City Council requested quarterly updates on progress.

The report written by Chief Nathan Trauernicht reported, “We believed it critical to get out to the stations, start building relationships with personnel, and determine the overall condition of the organization, its needs, and critical items that needed to be addressed. Shared command staff visited all stations in the months of January and February. A third round of visits is currently being scheduled for May.”

According to his report, it was during these visits that several issues emerged that the new management team “immediately began addressing.”

First and foremost was concern over the study and move of Station 31.  The idea of moving the fire station first arose after looking at maps of the new response matrix with boundary drop, and noting the overlap between the UC Davis Fire Station and Central Station (Station 31).

When the city council passed the budget in early July 2013, they voted to add $2.3 million to the Fire Station Relocation Project, which will be funded by public safety impact fees.

“We will start doing initial cost estimations and we will come back to you with a report with the first round of site review and a better idea of what we think the actual costs will be,” City Manager Steve Pinkerton told the council at the time.

“Very little of this would be spent on planning,” he added.  “But now that we have the money allocated we can start the planning process.”

Chief Trauernicht, however, notes, “The new shared management team agreed that the study should be conducted internally and that moving the station out of the downtown core would reduce service to the highest call volume portion of the community.”

Freeing up the $2.3 million, which reportedly has not been spent, may change at least this year’s budget dynamics, as the city faces both a sales tax election in June and potentially a parcel tax election in November.

Other issues that arose were the concern “over a lack of labor representation on entry-level firefighter hiring interview panels.” The shared management team agreed “that labor representatives should be included in the entry level process and they were added to the panels.”

There was also concern over the continued participation of the former interim fire chief in the management and decision making processes of the new shared management team.  Chief Trauernicht writes, “Shared management agreed that in order to have the best opportunity for long-term success, and to establish the new team’s autonomy, the consulting agreement with the former interim Chief contract was phased out.”

There was additional concern over three vs. four person staffing. “Shared command staff reminded personnel that staffing is a policy decision of the Council, as elected to represent the citizens of the community,” he responded. “Staffing levels are based on a community’s risk, the community’s willingness to accept risk, and the community’s desire to pay for the chosen level of service. Shared management staff will continue to report incident outcomes to the City Council.”

Chief Trauernicht also reported that “issues related to payroll associated with contract imposition were significant. Shared management staff have been working regularly with City HR, finance, and payroll staff to resolve the issues and continue to closely monitor the situation.”

Finally he writes that there is curiosity as to the plan, moving forward.  The chief responds, “This question was challenging to answer in the first two months of the agreement, as we were still trying to fully understand all the issues that needed to be addressed. Since that time we have established a list of goals for the upcoming year and we have several projects underway that will be shared in more detail later in this report.”

The chief has further 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.”

This is a critical finding because it 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.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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19 thoughts on “New Report Backs Off Central Fire Station Move, More”

  1. Barack Palin

    “This is a critical finding because it 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.”

    Are you reading this Sheila Allen?

  2. Davis Progressive

    disappointed to see a good and innovative idea of moving the central fire station north going by the books because of the firefighters union and the need for the new chief to curry some favor.

    it solves three problems at once.

    first, there is an overlap of coverage areas
    second, there is an under-served northern parts
    third, we could use the location for redevelopment.

    1. Frankly

      fourth – they are next door to my office and with the alarms blasting for every call for a senior that has fallen down, I have staff unable to effectively converse with customers on the phone.

      fifth – I think the fifth street road diet plan makes their location even more problematic.

      1. Barack Palin

        “fourth – they are next door to my office and with the alarms blasting for every call for a senior that has fallen down, I have staff unable to effectively converse with customers on the phone.”

        Frankly, I had a relative in one of the senior care homes in town and it seemed like half the time I would visit the fire dept. was out front attending to one of their patients.

          1. Matt Williams

            Yes, it is very important. My next door neighbor had seven 911 calls responded to in 2012. That produced 56 firefighters on site plus 14 ambulance personnel. With over 66% of all firefighter call responses being for “medical aid” perhaps it is a poor allocation of resources to send eight firefighters plus two ambulance personnel to each medical aid call. With the new 3-3-3-2 staffing it still makes little sense to send six firefighters plus two ambulance personnel to each medical aid call.

            fire-calls-for-service

            Further, locating one of the AMR ambulances at 1111 Alvarado Avenue might obviate the need for any firefighters on a substantial proportion of the medical aid calls at that site.

          2. Barack Palin

            My neighbor across the street had a panic attack which resulted in 6 firefighters showing up. Two went in the house to attend to the lady while four stood outside by the curb and chatted.
            Overkill?

          3. Matt Williams

            In the FY 2013-2014 City Budget, $5,478,173 was budgeted for the Salaries and Benefits portion of Fire Operations (85% of the Operations budget). The time that those four firefighters spent “chatting” on the side of the street contributed to that $5,478,173. The purchase cost of a paramedic truck is a small fraction of that $5,478,173, and dispatching a two-person paramedic truck to the 66% of all fire calls that were for medical aid would be much more efficient. That would mean that four qualified medical personnel would be onsite at each medical aid call … the two fire department paramedics and the two ambulance attendants. That would be much more appropriate staffing in my opinion.

          4. hpierce

            Two thoughts:

            1. should the city take over ambulance service, in lieu of a combined Fire/AMC response?

            2. should AMC up their game, so we don’t also have to have the FD respond to mdical calls?

            I do not have the answers to either of those questions.

          5. hpierce

            “panic attacks” are seldom life threatening. They deserve little/no public subsidy to deal with. I can say this by suffering from panic attacks a few times. Never called for emergency aid, and obviously lived to tell.

          6. Tia Will

            hpierce

            I am glad to hear that you episodes of panic attacks have resolved without emergency or medial assistance. However, I would point out that there is a broad spectrum of severity of attacks, just as there is a broad spectrum of asthma from mild occasional need for an inhaler all the way through life threatening inability to exchange air with need for intubation. Panic attacks can range from the mild, transient form to that which is
            represented by an incapacitating inability to leave one’s home and is associated with an increased risk of suicide. One large study places the increased risk of suicide attempts in individuals with panic attacks at 7%, just slightly lower than that of those with the diagnosis of major depression at 7.9%.
            Johnson et al, Archives of General Psychiatry.

            Anxiety disorders are also the most common mental disorders in the United States even exceeding depressive disorders and thus represent a major public health issue.

  3. Ryan Kelly

    Did I read this clearly? Do we now have $2.3 million that can be returned to the general budget and used to repair roads?

    It seems like the Fire Fighters concerns are being addressed in a professional manner.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I’m not expert on the usage of Mello Roos, but $2.3 million is a drop in the bucket for roads, we’re better off finding a more permanent funding source and saving that $2.3 million for other uses.

  4. Tia Will

    With regard to gradually changing from the old model being described above to a more agile and functional model of having a medical response unit as opposed to dispatching multiple firefighters to a medical call, I was very encouraged by a recent conversation with Nate Trauernicht who seems very well versed in these newer response models. I am sincerely hoping that our city leadership will give serious consideration to making changes to our current model which would be far more efficient in terms of ensuring that the personnel with the most appropriate skills set is dispatched rather than sending out a large number of folks who have little roll but to arrive and stand around while two actually handle the situation.

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