Grass Valley, Nevada City fire departments join mutual aid agreement with Cal Fire |

Grass Valley, Nevada City fire departments join mutual aid agreement with Cal Fire

Cal Fire Unit Chief Brian Estes, left, and Grass Valley-Nevada City Fire Chief Mark Buttron shake on the new mutual aid agreement.
Courtesy photo GV Fire

Grass Valley and Nevada City just got a little safer, thanks to a new automatic aid agreement the fire departments signed with Cal Fire’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit.

The agreement allows state resources to respond, on initial dispatch, to any fire incident within the city limits of Grass Valley and Nevada City, Grass Valley/Nevada City Fire Division Chief Sam Goodspeed said.

“We had agreements in place, but not for a full Cal Fire response,” Goodspeed said.

The agreement, announced Tuesday, officially becomes active at week’s end, he added.

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On a “high” dispatch level, the cities will now receive additional state resources of up to seven engines, two hand crews, a dozer, two air tankers with an air attack, a helicopter, and a Cal Fire battalion chief. The partnership will come at no additional cost to the communities.

Without the agreement in place, the only way Grass Valley and Nevada City could access those Cal Fire resources would be to meet certain thresholds.

The fire would have to be uncontained and a direct threat to life or property, and it would have to be determined that fighting the fire would exhaust the resources of the local agency. The local jurisdiction would also need to be able to support the resources that come in. The local agency would make the request to dispatch, which would then contact the Cal Fire duty chief, who would determine if the fire met all the requirements.

The agreement “takes all that out of the picture,” said Cal Fire Unit Chief Brian Estes. “It’s just eliminating unnecessary hurdles, and making sure people get the fire resources they need as quickly as possible.”

The incorporated areas of Grass Valley and Nevada City are considered Local Responsibility Areas, in which the local government has sole responsibility for any fires in that area, Goodspeed said. Outside the city limits is considered a State Responsibility Area, where the state or county fire departments would have jurisdiction. Where those two areas meet is considered a Mutual Threat Zone.

“Mutual Threat Zones exist all over the state, in areas where we butt up against Local responsibility Areas, where we wouldn’t normally have authority,” Estes said.

Under the new agreement, the entirety of the two cities will be considered a Mutual Threat Zone and will now automatically receive a full Cal Fire response instead of having to request a response.

“If we deem a fire will be a threat to the State Responsibility Area, the benefit (of the agreement) is not having a delay in requesting resources,” Estes said. “Without this, a chief would get to the scene of a fire, could see the fire is outside their scope and make a formal request. That then goes through a process of approval before we can grant those resources.”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4236.

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