The Turlock Fire Department saw success Tuesday night on an agreement between itself, the City of Modesto Fire Department, City of Ceres Fire Department, and the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District to provide automatic aid in the event of a major fire, disaster, or other emergency regardless of jurisdiction. Three years in the making, the agreement will provide a boundary drop and resource sharing concept to expand automatic aid.
Stanislaus Consolidated Fire, located in Riverbank, covers, either by district or contract, over 500 square miles of eastern Stanislaus County. It also covers the Cities of Riverbank, Oakdale, Waterford and the communities of Empire, Hickman, La Grange, Valley Home, Knights Ferry and County areas around Oakdale and Riverbank as well as the heavy industry in Central Modesto, also known as the Beard Industrial District according to Captain Buck Condit, the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Public Information Officer.
With the agreement, participating agencies can plan and operate as a single entity while still maintaining local control of personnel and assets. The entire response area will be included for participating agencies.
As Turlock Fire Chief Tim Lohman explained upon presenting the item that sometimes fires or emergencies occur closer to a fire station that is technically out of its jurisdiction, which makes for longer wait times and less efficiency. The agreement will look to change that practice.
In the agreement, all four agencies agree to send the closest resource to an emergency regardless of jurisdictional boundaries, provided it does not prevent the jurisdictional district from responding to the emergency, and does not prevent the aiding district from responding to its own emergencies.
“One of the things that I want to share with the Council tonight as we’ve been going through this process for the past three years, we’ve had some great interagency cooperation,” said Lohman. “In the fire service we don’t always have that. There’s been some times over the years people that don’t want to necessarily cooperate and work together.”
Other cities have already undertaken similar practices, such as Patterson City Fire Department consolidating with the West Stanislaus Fire Protection District.
Discussions on the agreement approved Tuesday began Oct. 4, 2011 as a way to achieve 15 firefighters on the scene of a structure fire. Currently, the City of Turlock Fire Department requires 13 firefighters on shift at a time, which makes it difficult to meet the 15 count for structure fires.
Additionally, Lohman noted that federal grants have shifted toward providing funds of a regional nature, which could potentially make it easier for the participating districts to receive the grants.
The four agencies will maintain individual governance over personnel, labor contracts, human resources, budgetary responsibilities, and service levels, but operationally will function in an integrated manner. In cases of emergency, the closest, most appropriate resource will be dispatched regardless of jurisdiction.
Lohman explained that each agency will agree to standardized operational policies and procedures, training programs, communication systems (with common terminology and dispatch) to move towards a common platform.
Modesto Fire Chief Sean Slamon attended Tuesday’s meeting to show his support for the agreement.
“What is before you today is a significant positive for the fire service,” said Slamon. “We’ve come together and adopted our own operating procedures amongst each other?
The goal is for the agreement to begin Oct. 1. Council approved the agreement with a 5-0 vote.