3 Nevada County fire agencies to operate as 1 | TheUnion.com

3 Nevada County fire agencies to operate as 1

Keri Brenner
Staff Writer

Officials from the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District on Thursday gave a unanimous thumbs up to a draft joint operating agreement (JOA) with fire agencies in Grass Valley and Nevada City.

"This is great work, nice work," said NCCFD director David Hanson.

"It's nice to get to a place where everyone's signing on the dotted line."

Fire officials in Grass Valley and Nevada have already approved the draft JOA. After any changes are made and approved, all three are expected to approve a final draft in the near future.

"This agreement consolidates all the separate JOA documents that we had in place between the three agencies and combines them into one master document," said NCCFD Battalion Chief Jerry Funk.

"It allows us to function as one agency."

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While the JOA stops short of any consolidation of resources or staff, it could possibly be a precursor down the line if the three groups agree to hire one chief to lead the three agencies, according to Funk.

"That's been the underlying message," he said, "getting everything in alignment."

No decision was announced Thursday on hiring a chief for all three agencies, but the matter was on the agenda for the board's closed session Thursday, which was still in progress at press time.

Funk said the current timing was optimal to consider hiring a single chief since two of the three agencies have interim chiefs — Mark Buttron in Grass Valley and Jerry Johnson in the county.

In addition, Penn Valley Fire Chief Gene Vanderplatts is retiring. Penn Valley might want to join the JOA at a later date, Funk said.

Funk and NCCFD Deputy Fire Marshal Terry McMahan said the new JOA, the result of more than six months' work, won't result in any visible changes in field operations.

The seven fire engines — one in Nevada City, two in Grass Valley and four in the county — are already dispatched according to which are the closest to the scene, without respect to jurisdiction or boundaries.

'This just formalizes the multiple documents and brings them into one," Funk said.

Director Keith Grueneberg said he supported the JOA, but he had some questions as to whether the shares of equipment, labor and money contributed by each agency were equitable.

Board Chair Warren Knox said the JOA allows for those equity issues and would be worked out through discussions among the three agencies.

Knox said the issue was more pressing in respect to the mutual aid agreements with firefighters from other agencies who were not part of the JOA.

"We need to continue to look at the value we get and what value they give back," Knox said.

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email kbrenner@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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