Sharing fire resources worth a good look |

Sharing fire resources worth a good look

Within a short distance of one another, the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, Nevada City Fire Department and 49er Fire Protection District each operate fire stations.

Each of the fire departments is managed by public-spirited professionals and volunteers who are driven to provide excellent protection to their communities. At the same time, each of the three fire departments doesn’t have enough money or enough manpower to provide all the services it might.

The answer clearly is cooperative agreements such as one that’s currently on the table.

Essentially, the three districts would combine their manpower to provide for 24-hour protection. The 49er district now has one firefighter on duty overnight, but it can’t roll a truck until a volunteer arrives. Nevada City isn’t always able to keep two volunteers in its stations overnight. Consolidated provides 24-hour coverage from its station on Nevada City Highway, but the station is sinking and has problems with mold. Under the proposal, Consolidated would move some of its staff to Nevada City and 49er stations – a step that would solve the problems faced by each of the districts.

This makes so much sense that it’s hard to believe anyone would be opposed.

Some may worry that this is the first step toward further combination of small fire departments in central Nevada County. Those combinations appeal to accountants, but trouble those who value the traditions and local roots of individual volunteer fire departments. Those are questions to be addressed in another time. The current proposal is about cooperation, not consolidation.

Others may worry about the complexities that might accompany the shared staff arrangements. Those are not minor concerns. Which fire department’s work rules, for instance, would be in force? How will questions of legal liability be resolved? How will costs be allocated between the three departments? The answers to those questions may be daunting, but they’re not insurmountable. Consolidated Fire District and Grass Valley reached a cooperative agreement not long ago, and their experience may help show the way.

Efficient, effective public service demands that this proposal get a good look. It holds a lot of promise.

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