Palo Alto, Menlo fire district forge new agreement

New contract enhances automatic-aid arrangement between agencies

The Palo Alto Fire Department has forged a new partnership with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District -- an agreement that officials say strengthens the mutual-aid arrangement between the two agencies.

The agreement, which the City Council unanimously passed Monday, is scheduled to go to the fire district's board of directors later this month and is expected to be fully implemented by the end of the year, according to Palo Alto Fire Deputy Chief Roger Bloom. The previous agreement took effect in 1999 and officials from both agencies felt it was due for an update.

The new agreement adds a truck company and a battalion chief from each agency to the automatic-aid arrangement. It also expands Palo Alto's boundary for coverage to Bay Road in East Palo Alto and the fire district's coverage into West Bayshore, the Palo Alto Airport and the Baylands, according to a report by Bloom.

Leaders of both agencies this week praised the new arrangement for further boosting the region's fire-protection services. At the Monday council meeting, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District praised the new agreement for supporting a regional approach to fire protection.

"At the end of the day, I don't think the people care what the fire truck says," Schapelhouman said. "They care that we're here on time, they care that we do a good job."

Bloom agreed and said the new automatic-aid agreement "seeks to improve fire and emergency services to both communities by effectively using automatic aid as part of a regional solution for immediate assistance regardless of the jurisdiction and not affected by County lines."

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District serves Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto. Under the new agreement, which will be in effect for five years, the district would also provide water-rescue response for incidents around San Francisquito Creek and the Baylands near Palo Alto Airport.

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