Are Davis Fire Reforms Working?

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For years, the Vanguard has been pushing for major reforms within the Davis Fire Department and, finally last year, the City of Davis made several major fire reforms – one of which, boundary drop, was a no-brainer and achieved easy unanimous support. However, two were huge controversies and took months to implement. First, by a 3-2 vote the city reduced the number of firefighters on a shift from 12 to 11 and redistributed the personnel to make the firefighters’ force more mobile.

Second, and even more controversial, was shared management. Ultimately, the same 3-2 vote prevailed in December, but not before public officials 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 argued, “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 wrote, “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.”

“This proposed action would place a well-established and effective municipal service within an entity whose primary mission is higher education and research, not public safety,” the letter continued. “This could easily result in a lessening of service and response for the residents of the Davis community and the surrounding areas historically served by the Davis Fire Department. We deeply appreciate the presence of the UC Davis campus and respect the leadership of the campus. Unified operations and efficiencies are appropriate considerations, but should not come with loss of community accountability.”

Last week, the Vanguard published the annual report and joint City of Davis and UC Davis Fire Chief Nathan Trauernicht has worked hard to reach out to the community.

Calls for service continue to increase overall, peaking in 2013-14 at 4812, however, the vast majority of that increase was in medical and public assistance calls. Actually, fire calls decreased in 2013-14 from previous years.

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Outreach has not been limited to the monthly reports. Last week, the fire department began holding community office hours.

A staff report this week notes, “Beginning the last week of August Shared Fire Management Staff will go to a local coffee/breakfast spot once a week for 2-3 hours to hold ‘Community Office Hours.’ The time and location will be announced in advance over social media, as well as traditional and non-traditional media outlets.”

“Shared staff will take laptops and tablets and work from these locations while being available to answer questions from citizens and increase the fire department’s visibility in the community,” the staff report says. “In today’s technological environment there is really little excuse not to take the office outside of the traditional structural walls and embed ourselves closer to the communities that we serve.”

The fire department is hiring new personnel. The chief reports that they conducted screening, testing, and three rounds of interviews for the position of Firefighter 1 for the City of Davis, during the first half of the year.

Those final interviews recently concluded and the chief has requested that HR proceed with the initial hiring process for five to fill current vacancies. “These are budgeted positions that have gone unfilled, but through hiring will ensure that DFD can achieve its service goals, keep firefighters safe, and reduce overtime created from the vacancies. We have a soft target of early October to have them on-boarded.”

The chief also reports, “The Fire Marshal brought forward the concept of a ‘one-stop-shop’ for community and planning services by co-locating the DFD fire prevention division to City Hall to increase collaboration with Mike Webb’s staff. This will drastically increase customer service for prevention and reduce the number of stops that customers have to make when looking for answers to a myriad of City related questions.”

This was set to begin on September 1 and they hope that this will help the Fire Prevention Division’s workload challenges.

On July 1, “We started a 6 month trial with the City of Woodland to build upon the existing agreement that Davis has with them sharing a Fire Marshal. The trial involves using all prevention staff from both municipalities to work without borders to meet the workload demands of both communities. In the first two months this has been occurring we have seen very positive success indicators.”

In the annual report, Chief Trauernich noted, “At the start of 2014-2015 we will be transitioning to a shared records management system with UCDFD to establish coordinated/integrated record keeping, daily staffing information and standardized incident reports.”

He writes, “Throughout the year we will be working toward our goals which include: completing standards of cover document, a strategic plan through 2020, revising the department’s policy manual, and completing the department’s standard operating guidelines (SOG) manual.”

While there are still political issues that will continue to surface, we have not seen any major complaints this year as the result of either the shared management arrangement or the new staffing system.

—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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20 thoughts on “Are Davis Fire Reforms Working?”

  1. Matt Williams

    David, the “A Closer Look” graphic would be much more useful if it compared the 2014 values to the 2013 values so that we could see trending patterns.

    1. Fire Chief Trauernicht (DFD/UCDFD)

      Matt,

      We can certainly provide that moving forward. Your feedback is exactly the type of response we are hoping to get from all of our reports and outreach efforts.

      Trends can be seen in the 30,000 foot bar chart titled: Calls by Type, but we can certainly drill down if that’s what folks would like to see.

      1. Matt Williams

        Great. What multiple periods allows the reader to see is if an individual data point is an anomaly or consistent across a multiple year timeframe.

        Thank you for the reply.

  2. PhilColeman

    Two-Part Suggestion: As part of the community outreach effort mentioned in the Report, extend a formal invitation to the president of the fire fighters’ association to also appear and present the union perspective and response to questions and concerns posed by citizens.

    Previously, the union independently initiated a series of outreach efforts to educate and gain community support. This would be another opportunity, and to reference the report content operationally as they so choose.

    Part Two: Formally invite the above-identified public officials who expressed total opposition to the (then) proposed merger and re-organization. Have them respond to public inquiry asking if the previous sense of foreboding continues to be their feeling in light of actual operational history and statistical data.

  3. hpierce

    Tangentially on ‘reform’… perhaps we should look if Davis should be charging convalescent facilities for any services that should realistically be provided by those facilities. Saw a Bee article a week or so back where an agency looked at the number of ‘assist’ calls in that category and is looking at billing the provider. Looking at the #’s for medical aid, it would be useful to know how many of those were to institutions rather than homes, businesses, etc. Perhaps the City should further categorize and report those.

    1. Barack Palin

      I totally agree with hpierce. I had a relative in one of the local facilities and almost everytime I visited her there were either fire vehicles already there or showing up during my visit. That is a daily occurance and it’s understood that this is part of being in the convalescent facility. Now why they don’t take on the costs I don’t understand, they sure as heck make enough off of the patients.

    2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      I know that Rochelle Swanson has inquired into the idea of having the City charge for insured medical services rendered by our firefighters. However, I am not sure where that idea presently stands.

  4. Davis Progressive

    meanwhile i have heard anecdotally that the firefighters union is pitching a fit at city hall. seems that it’s time to retire a whole bunch of these troublemakers and we need to hire a fresh crew.

      1. Davis Progressive

        mainly in the fire station, recently. i can’t be more specific because it would expose the person who told me. but it appears the firefighters are still fighting the battle from last year, they’re just biding their time and using lucas and dan as their emissaries.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Matt – I can say that I know that for a fact. Maybe not the union itself, perhaps just one person.

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