The UC Davis and City of Davis Fire Departments recently took the first steps toward merging into one fire department.
The Davis City Council voted June 27 to move forward with the plan, which would have the departments sharing one fire chief. In addition, the plan calls for a shared fire dispatch center, administrative restructuring and standardized training procedures.
“Right now we are just consolidating the command staff-the fire chief and division chiefs,” said Kelly Stachowicz , Davis deputy city manager. “It takes the first step to allow us to look more closely at a more comprehensive merger.”
Both fire departments have had interim fire chiefs since the standing chiefs announced their retirements in 2009. Under the new plan, interim City Fire Chief Bill Weisgerber would take responsibility for both departments.
“There has been a lot of history on the study of consolidating fire services, but what separates this from the past is that the fire chiefs retired,” said Nathan Trauernicht, interim UC Davis fire chief. “We had an opportunity to combine without having to lay people off.”
Weisgerber would report to both UC Davis Vice Chancellor John Meyer and City Manager Bill Emlen. The city and university would both contribute to Weisgerber’s $149,346 salary.
The plan would likely save UC Davis approximately $110,000 a year and the city approximately $140,000 a year.
“I think this is a good idea – I wouldn’t be involved if I didn’t,” said Weisgerber. “In this economy and demand for services it makes sense to combine services, especially in the area of public safety.”
Additional changes under the plan include consolidating assistant chiefs, training chiefs and operations chiefs. Firefighters and other employees would continue to report to the two separate departments, but ultimately crews and equipment would be dispatched based on proximity rather than city and campus boundaries. Fire prevention and fire marshall services would remain separate.
“I don’t perceive any downsides to this plan,” said Trauernicht. “Geographically, the two departments are next to each other and we are working together on almost a daily basis. This would just build on existing partnerships.”
If the administrative merger is successful, it is likely that the city and campus fire departments will look into merging entirely.
“It is certainly possible that in the future there will just be one fire department,” said Stachowicz. “We’re not in a position to say that is what will happen, but that’s what we’re looking at.”
The plan now goes to Meyer for approval. If approved,
the city and university would begin sharing the cost of a fire chief, starting Sept. 1.
The plan would remain in effect for two years and then would be renewable for one-year terms.
“This is uncharted territory, merging the city and university like this,” said Weisgerber. “But it’s an exciting challenge and we’re looking forward to seeing what will happen. “
SARAH HANSEL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.