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A great way for local agencies to save big bucks

Original post made by Peter Carpenter on May 22, 2010

It is now very apparent that the drop in property tax and other revenues will finally force local governments to revise their budgets. This is also a perfect time to make one very big cost saving change - consolidate all San Mateo fire agencies into one entity and also give that consolidated agency the responsibility for ambulance service (which is currently contracted out by the county to an incredibly poor performing and expensive private company).

Why have 13+ Fire Chiefs, 13+ Training Chiefs, multiple and poorly equipped training facilities, multiple vehicle maintenance facilities, multiple human resources and purchasing facilities? Why have ambulances operated by a private company when the first people on the scene are always highly trained and skilled paramedic firefighters - who are prohibited by the County from providing ambulance service?

Years ago the fire agencies in San Mateo County consolidated their dispatch functions and the result was better service at a lower cost.
Now is the time to consolidate all of the other fire service functions.

Orange County, Sac Metro and the City and County of San Francisco all have consolidated fire departments and they all operate superb ambulance systems. There is no need to reinvent this organizational model - learn from it and build on it.

Sometimes difficult change can only occur when there is a crisis - well folks, we have a crisis so let's make this very important change.

Comments (6)

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 22, 2010 at 8:07 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the Sac Metro Fire story:
On December 1, 2000, two local fire districts came together and formed the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District. From public education and training to firefighting, emergency services, search and rescue and more, your Metro Fire professionals stand ready to serve the greater Sacramento region. We invite you to visit this site often and let us know what we can do to improve our partnerships with you, our community.

The highly skilled firefighters and support personnel of Metro Fire serve nearly 640,000 citizens over a 417-square-mile area, serving Sacramento & Placer counties including the City of Citrus Heights and the City of Rancho Cordova.

Historically, Metro Fire represents 16 former fire agencies, some of which were founded more than six decades ago. Today, Metro Fire is the seventh-largest fire district in California with 42 strategically located fire stations.

Thanks to fire district consolidations, we are more effective than ever. We operate a central 911 dispatch center and a unified communications system that keeps all our fire companies informed and connected. Mergers have also enhanced the consistency of our training and operations, helping us maintain our reputation as a respected leader in firefighting and emergency services.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 22, 2010 at 8:09 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the Orange County Fire Authority story:
Prior to May, 1980, fire service for the cities of Cypress, Irvine, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Placentia, San Juan Capistrano, Tustin, Villa Park, and Yorba Linda along with the County unincorporated areas was provided by the California Department of Forestry (CDF)*. However, on May 16, 1980, the Orange County Fire Department (OCFD) was formed as a county department reporting to the Board of Supervisors. It's first Fire Chief was Larry Holmes. Fifty-two percent of the 518,483 residents served by the OCFD lived in unincorporated areas of the County.

However, over the course of the next decade, five new cities were formed from unincorporated territory and two additional cities decided to contract with OCFD for fire service. As a result, by January 1, 1991, over 80% of OCFD's service population of 808,139 lived within these sixteen cities. Yet their fire service was still governed by the Board of Supervisors. The cities wanted greater input into how their emergency services were provided. Clearly a new form of governance was needed for these new circumstances.

During 1991, the OCFD was on its way exploring the possibility of forming a special district as an independent entity governed by a board of directors representing the member cities and the County. The California Government Code dealing with special districts was studied, other fire protection districts were contacted, and services the new agency would need to provide were identified (i.e. investment services, employee benefits, payroll, and purchasing). Discussions had begun with the County about transferring title of the fire stations to the new organization. However, although a great deal of enthusiasm and effort was poured into this project, unforeseen difficulties prevented the formation of a special district.

Nevertheless, the dream did not die and the momentum was soon recaptured. A new governance structure, a Joint Powers Authority (JPA), was selected. Much of the previous work was used in this endeavor. By 1994 the plans and structure of the new agency were well underway. The County Board of Supervisors, the various City Councils, the OCFD labor groups, and management were all pulling together to launch the new JPA. Then on December 6, 1994, the County of Orange declared bankruptcy. Yet, inspite of this almost insurmountable obstacle, the dreams and plans were brought to fruition and the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), under Interim Fire Chief Ken Mcleod, was formed on March 1, 1995. The County bankruptcy, which was merely coincidental to the JPA formation, had not derailed the efforts.

Since then, the OCFA has continued to grow. Three more cities contracted with the OCFA for service and three new cities incorporated. The helicopter program was begun in 1995 and in 1997 Chip Prather was appointed the new Fire Chief. The move to the recently completed Regional Fire and Operations Training Center (RFOTC) finished in May of 2004 and in 2009 Keith Richter became the OCFA's third Fire Chief.

* - In 1980, the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, La Habra, Newport Beach, Orange, San Clemente, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, and Westminster had their own municipal fire departments. Since then, Buena Park, San Clemente, Seal Beach, Stanton, and Westminster joined the OCFD/OCFA.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 22, 2010 at 8:12 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the San Francisco Fire Department story:
Established in 1866, the San Francisco Fire Department is rich in tradition and history. From the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 to the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989, the Department has grown to meet the many challenges along the way. Today, the San Francisco Fire Department serves an estimated 1.5 million people, providing fire suppression and emergency medical services to the residents, visitors and workers within San Francisco's 49 square miles.

To find out more about the San Francisco Fire Department, we invite you to explore our website. Here you will find information links to learn about our history, outlines of the Department's organization and operations, information about the programs and services we offer to the public and highlights of the Department's many achievements.

SFFD Emergency Medical Services

The San Francisco Fire Department is a permitted ambulance provider in the City and County of San Francisco, dedicated to providing excellent EMS care for the full spectrum of medical emergencies. The Department follows the local ambulance ordinance and adheres to the policies and protocols for pre-hospital care set by the San Francisco Emergency Medical Services Agency (SF EMSA). All Department paramedics and firefighter/paramedics are licensed by the State of California EMS Authority and accredited with SF EMSA. All emergency medical technicians and firefighter/EMTs are certified with SF EMSA. All accreditation, certification and licensing is in accordance with Division 2.5 of the Health and Safety Code, the California Code of Regulations, Title 22, Division 9, and SF EMSA policies 2040 and 2050.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2010 at 9:22 am

The San Mateo Grand Jury has just released a report urging fire department consolidation.

It notes that "There are fourteen fire agencies protecting 27 cities, towns, communities and the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County."

It is time to get moving on this !!!

Full report at:

Web Link


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2010 at 10:25 am

Correct link to full report:

Web Link


Posted by John P. Johns, CPA, a resident of another community
on May 27, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I did a fire consolidation study for the City of Lindenwood, California about 15 years ago. What was true then is true now. Taxpayers can save big by consolidating public safety.

This one is a no brainer.


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