Nevada City, Grass Valley look to consolidate fire department administration | TheUnion.com

Nevada City, Grass Valley look to consolidate fire department administration

On Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, the city councils of Grass Valley and Nevada City are expected to discuss a one-year pilot project that would consolidate fire department administration under a shared services model.

The two cities already have a history of inter-agency cooperation that includes partnering — along with Nevada County Consolidated Fire District — in a Joint Operational Area first established in 2003. That agreement helped all three agencies leverage their resources to provide the most efficient fire, EMS and rescue services.

Nevada City and Grass Valley also have a shared-service agreement within their police departments, sharing the use of a detective and patrol officers during certain hours. Also this week, Nevada City and Grass Valley are expected to execute a trade that will bring K-9 Rudiger and a K-9 vehicle from Nevada City to Grass Valley, in return for a similar patrol vehicle.

The Joint Operational Area agencies tried to streamline administrative services and have only one fire chief before, in 2014, but the concept did not pan out, noted Grass Valley Fire Chief Mark Buttron.

This new proposal will serve as a one-year test of the model, Buttron said. If it doesn't work, the cities can suspend the program.

"We have every faith it is going to work," he added.

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Currently, Nevada City has three captains and three firefighters. Its chief, Sam Goodspeed, serves part time as chief and also is a captain. In 2017, Nevada City responded to 617 incidents.

Grass valley has a staff of five captain, three engineers, five firefighters, on battalion chief, one fire marshal and a fire chief. Its fire department responded to 3,521 incidents last year.

Under the new proposal, Buttron will serve as the fire chief for both cities while Goodspeed becomes division chief and comes off captain duty on an engine. To replace him, Grass Valley will put one officer in his spot, a battalion chief.

"This is a long-term cost containment solution," Buttron said. "This will breed efficiencies within the systems for each city and provide a better level of service on the administrative side."

The two cities are proposing an Aug. 1 start date for the proposal.

It was an easy fit," Buttron said, noting the two cities have similar challenges that include historic "old town" areas with turn-of-the-century construction and Wildland Urban Interface areas on the perimeters.

"We're pretty excited to have this opportunity," he said.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.