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Daisy Mountain, BCC fire department consolidation discussedd

2/22/17

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

NORTH VALLEY – Daisy Mountain and Black Canyon Fire Departments have been considering consolidating into one fire district, and three public meetings were held last week to provide information to local residents and answer questions about this possibility.

DMFD Fire Chief Mark Nichols opened the Feb. 16 meeting at DMFD Station #141 by explaining the background of the discussion and noting that nothing has been decided yet, saying they are looking “to see if this is going to be a good match.”

DMFD fire board member Delene Mahoney noted that the DMFD board “has decided consolidation is the only option we felt comfortable with.”

Under consolidation, Daisy Mountain Fire would incorporate Black Canyon into the DMFD district. The Black Canyon employees would become DMFD employees, and the BCC fire board would be dissolved. To consolidate departments, both fire boards would need to approve this decision.

Key themes of the Feb. 16 meeting included funding, details on pros and cons, effect on response time, and other options besides consolidation.

Mahoney emphasized that consolidation would not cost DMFD “one penny”. She noted that BCC Fire is currently functioning on financial reserves to meet their budget.

The Black Canyon Fire District is in financial crisis, due largely to a legislative limit for special districts. This district has five full-time members, as well as a part-time and reserve pool. The department currently sends out four first responders to calls; under consolidation, this would be reduced to two first responders per call, until the budget allows for more staff.

Mahoney noted that in regards to funding, the tax base is guaranteed funds. The financial data prepared that looks at consolidation is conservative and includes only known revenue; additional revenue may be generated from other sources, including grants.

“Our goal is to absolutely go to 4-man trucks as soon as possible,” Mahoney said, referring to the consolidation possibility, noting that many districts are consolidating for financial reasons.

Consolidating the two fire districts allows some administrative staff sharing, which saves money. Some group costs savings could be expected, as well, since the larger the district, the larger the buying power.

Combining the districts would bring Black Canyon into Daisy Mountain’s automatic aid partnership with multiple other fire departments in the state. Currently, BCC Fire is a mutual aid partner, which means they are not automatically assigned to assist where needed, and their communication system differs from DMFD.

DMFD board chairman Brian Moore explained that, at this time, when Black Canyon and Daisy Mountain Fire Departments are working a call together, they aren’t on the same communication system. This necessitates phone calls and the need to change radio channels, and Moore called this a “safety handicap” since it can hamper communication among firefighters during a call.

Deputy Chief Danny Johnson said at the Feb. 16 meeting that once they have a better indication of what is going to be done, the department could have experts perform a radio survey to address the communication issues.

Right now, the survey is on hold, waiting for a decision on consolidation; if approved, BCC Fire reserve capital will be absorbing those costs as part of the consolidation.

“Those mechanisms are ready to be pulled right now as soon as we get the go,” Johnson said.

Residents at the Feb. 16 meeting questioned how consolidation would affect emergency call response times and if responses would be in any way delayed by an ambulance going up to Black Canyon City.

Moore noted that DMFD is already required to provide backup in Black Canyon City when their unit is out, and that for most serious medical emergencies, getting prepped for transport to a hospital takes about 20 minutes, by which time a transport vehicle will have arrived.

Captain Houston Todd further explained the transport time, noting that first responders on-scene also need to check hospital status and unit response. For major incidents, such as accidents on the freeway, crews en route will be communicating with the first responders and may order a helicopter at that time, to ensure that if it’s required, it’ll be there when needed.

“If it’s a transport time situation, we’re going to call a helicopter if it’s critical, so we can get them out of there as fast as possible,” Todd said.

Commenters also asked about the impact on DMFD if BCC runs out of money to pay staff and becomes a volunteer department. BCC Fire is the first response to emergencies in their district area, which includes an accident-prone section of the I-17.

Nichols noted at the meeting that crews would still need to go up there to assist when needed.

In a follow-up interview with The Foothills Focus, Nichols also noted that if the first responders were all volunteers, response time will be dependent on how the station is staffed: “if the volunteers are not at the station but are members of the community that run to the fire station when they are notified of an event it will be a delayed response.”

Residents of both fire districts are encouraged to learn more about what consolidation would look like by visiting www.daisymountainfire.org or www.bcvfd.org; financial charts and more details are available on both sites.

Moore emphasized at the close of the Feb. 16 meeting that the DMFD board is looking out for the community.

“We want to see the best possible service in the amount of money we can levy. We’re your representatives,” he said.