The board of directors for the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District agreed to explore the possibility of contracting with Penn Valley’s fire chief to fill in during Division Chief David Ray’s upcoming vacation.
The board also raised the possibility of using Penn Valley Fire Chief Gene Vander Plaats as an interim chief when Ray retires in May.
Ray has been acting as fire chief for Consolidated since Tim Fike and the district parted ways last year; he likely will retire before a new chief is selected.
Chairman Keith Grueneberg said the board needed to establish who would be in charge since the two new battalion chiefs, who normally would step up, are still in their probationary period.
Grueneberg initially offered to come in for a few hours a day in Ray’s absence, he said, adding he has “now come to his senses.”
“I’d be reporting to myself, and I can’t do that,” he said.
Board member David Hanson said he had been in discussions with Vander Plaats and a Penn Valley Fire Protection District board member, who both expressed interest.
“He could also function in an interim capacity until a chief is hired,” Hanson said. “Gene said he would look forward to the challenge.”
Penn Valley and Consolidated do have a mutual aid agreement, but Consolidated would have to pay to back-fill for Vander Plaats on days when he would have been acting as duty chief, Hanson said.
Board member Mark Bass noted that Ray had been out on vacation before without needing to bring in outside help, and questioned why the district would not use the services of Grass Valley Fire Chief Tony Clarabut or Nevada City’s chief, Sam Goodspeed.
“David has been gone before and we have held it together,” Clarabut said. “I’m more than happy to fill in. We’d do it under the JOA agreement, there would be no charge ... I’m just a phone call away.”
The board members seemed more inclined to look for a solution that would extend into Ray’s retirement, however, with Bass calling Vander Plaats the “perfect candidate” to be interim chief.
The board voted unanimously to have Hanson draft a contract and negotiate with the Penn Valley board for Vander Plaats’ services.