Placer supervisors approve study to modernize fire service

Published on September 15, 2015

Placer County took a significant step today toward updating a dated system of fire services delivery on the county’s western slope. The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with an outside firm to conduct a fire services study. Under the contract, Citygate Associates of Folsom will collect data and provide recommendations on how best to economically provide adequate fire suppression and response to calls for emergency medical services.

Currently, there are 19 independent fire districts in Placer County, each with its own governing body, tax rate and special assessments. The varied funding mechanisms, duplicative management and administrative functions, and increased service demands have caused financial difficulties, which is challenging the sustainability of some districts.

Earlier this year, supervisors directed the county Office of Emergency Services to identify a qualified firm to conduct a study of current fire service and make recommendations for improving the system. The search for that entity followed the county’s customary request-for-proposal process. 

“While I think that the immediate future is fairly secure for the independent special districts, there are real concerns within those districts, and our own district – Placer County Fire – about ongoing sustainability,” said District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery. “While I wish we didn’t have this challenge at all, I’m delighted that this study was spurred by some of those special districts that came to us and said ‘We really need to talk about this.’ It gives me hope that we will all be able to work together on the solution.”

The special district model is decades old and was developed at a time when fire districts primarily fought fires. Today, the overwhelming majority of calls for service are for medical emergencies. With adjacent districts having similar command and training structures, a potential alternative is to consolidate some or all of the special districts. This model could eliminate redundancies and, by extension, reduce costs. Supervisor Montgomery noted that the study will provide recommendations that districts may or may not chose to follow.

Citygate Associates estimates the study will be completed in about six months.

Related items

Video of the Foresthill Forum meeting 

Foresthill Forum presentations from:

Placer County (PDF) 

U.S. Forest Service (PDF) 

Foresthill Fire Protection District (PDF) 

Placer County Fire Department / CAL FIRE (PDF)