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Davis, California

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Fire department merger: Good intent, bad idea

For the past few years, the Davis Fire Department (DFD) has been in a major state of flux. Their staff has been cut from 45 firefighters to 36, their call volume has more than doubled and their management has shifted from one interim fire chief to another. Such issues have forced the firefighters to pick up nearly 500 hours of overtime per person in just this past year and have led them to be seriously concerned about their ability to protect the Davis community.

Currently, the DFD is led by the City of Davis Chief of Police Landy Black. Unfortunately, this leads to all the problems in organization you might expect from someone heading a department that does not fit their expertise.

In order to address this issue, the DFD and the UC Davis Fire Department will attempt a one year “joint trial period” in which both entities will be led by a single fire chief.

This proposed merger will initially save the City of Davis approximately $78,000 with the potential to save up to $200,000 a year afterwards. Unfortunately, these savings come with a price for UC Davis: a measly $1.3 million annually.

Although we sympathize with the firefighters’ plight and agree that steps need to be taken to ensure that they have adequate management, we don’t think this is the best solution possible.

It is great that the City of Davis is saving money, but we do not understand where these savings are coming from, or why the costs need to be absorbed by our campus. Furthermore, simply adding a joint fire chief does not seem to be addressing the problem of an understaffed fire department.

We are also concerned by the transition period while the new fire chief gets accustomed to their new role. Since the city is recruiting nationally, the new chief will undoubtedly need time to acclimate, but if there is a major emergency before they have gotten their bearings, it could spell disaster.

Finally, in light of the increased cost to our campus, city officials have proposed cutting our student firefighting program. This is totally unacceptable.

In the end, this proposed merger seems to benefit only the City of Davis while costing UC Davis more than it’s worth, especially considering it doesn’t even completely solve the fire department’s problems.