The Colusa City Council recently approved an agreement which now allows the Colusa Fire Department and the Sacramento River Fire Protection District to respond to local emergencies together despite their jurisdiction.
This decision comes after months of discussion between the city and the two departments, said Sacramento River Fire Protection District Chief Jeffery Winters.
“This is the first step in investigating the possibility of the two departments merging in the future,” Winters said.
For more than 20 years, many in the community have wondered why there are two fire departments in the city of Colusa, a question that has long since gone unanswered.
In February, an Ad-Hoc Committee was created to address this question and investigate the possibility of merging the two departments in the future with the intent of better serving the community at a lower cost.
“The financial aspect has been a large driving force but more importantly, both agencies want to ensure that the level of service that is currently provided is the best that we can offer,” said Colusa Fire Chief Logan Conley.
Conley said the committee decided it would be an appropriate step forward to establish an Automatic Aid Agreement between both departments.
The agreement was passed unanimously by the Colusa City Council on May 21 and went into effect immediately following that vote.
Winters said this agreement is beneficial because it gets the departments working together and increases the number of fire fighters that can respond to an emergency.
“The core group of responders from both departments is not real high,” Winters said. “In order to increase these numbers we decided to have both departments work together.”
Conley said this agreement also allows responders to assist with incidents at the time of dispatch.
“Before the Automatic Aid Agreement, each agency would have to wait for a request from the Incident Commander,” Conley said. “Waiting for this additional step often costs us valuable minutes to respond. The Automatic Aid Agreement decreases response times for additional support when the incident meets the needs of both agencies response.”
While the departments will be working together in emergency situations, not all incoming calls will be handled by both departments.
“Responses will depend on the type of call,” said Mayor Greg Ponciano.
Ponciano said medical calls will still be dispatched by jurisdiction but all fires, structural calls and auto accident calls will be dispatched to both departments.
Winters said the majority of calls that come into his department are for Emergency Medical Services.
After the six month agreement the chiefs from each department will meet with the committee and provide an update about the cooperative efforts. If successful, a continuation may be considered.
“Hopefully it continues,” Winters said. “That is our ultimate goal.”
Conley said he foresees the agreement extending beyond the six month mark.
“We have had positive results thus far and have received many positive reactions from our community,” Conley said. “I think that this cooperation between the two departments has been long overdue and people are pleased to see the decades-long division disappearing very quickly.”
Ponciano also said he would like to see this agreement continues past the original six month term.
“It’s very refreshing to see this play out,” Ponciano said. “Each department has strengths they can share so I see this as a win-win.”
While talks of a merger between the departments is ongoing, Winters said it will be at least two years before any kind of decisions will be made by the governing bodies.