The Nevada County Consolidated Fire Protection District, until recently a poster boy for dysfunctional government, is now leading the way toward what should be the future of fire departments in western Nevada County.
Now, will others join the parade?
Consolidated Fire’s Board of Directors voted last month to sign a joint operating agreement with the Grass Valley and Nevada City fire departments, and committed itself to exploring a “shared senior administration”–in layman’s terms, a fire chief to run all three departments.
Chairman Warren Knox said the two cities and possibly Penn Valley Fire have informally “expressed interest” in having a shared chief but haven’t committed to the idea publicly. Knox said the next step is to “find out who (else) is committed to “the shared chief idea.” After that, “we’ll see what happens,” he told The Union.
Consolidated Fire decided to give up its independence after a series of events that included the forced retirement of long-time Chief Tim Fike and the resignation of his successor after three months on the job. Then there’s the projected deficit of $860,000 in the 2018-19 fiscal year, revealed a year after district residents approved an $850,000 tax increase.
All nine fire departments in western Nevada County are candidates for consolidation. Grass Valley is the largest with 15 full-time employees, and all of them use paid-call or volunteer firefighters to fill their thin ranks.
Our population is not growing and voters are becoming resistant to spending more money on fire protection. Residents of Higgins Fire rejected a modest increase in expenditures, and Consolidated’s profligate spending won’t make it easier to ask for money in the future.
We live in one of the most heavily wooded areas in the state, where the devastating 49er Fire is still fresh in the minds of many people. We can get more for our money by consolidating the meager firefighting resources we have.
If the departments won’t follow the lead of Consolidated Fire, the taxpayers should force them to do it.