Kenwood Press

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News: 12/01/2014

Fire services project “summit” in December

As part of a potential major revamp of what is seen as a fragmented system of fire services, on Dec. 11 Sonoma County administrators are holding a “summit,” a community meeting to go over the results of numerous meetings with stakeholders that were held during the fall.

In September, under the direction of the county’s Board of Supervisors, county staff began a project to review the operations of the some 20 independent fire districts in the unincorporated areas of the county, and the 15 all-volunteer fire departments that operate under the umbrella of the county’s Fire and Emergency Services Department.

In recent years, the Board of Supervisors has been concerned about the challenges facing some of the different fire organizations, including financial problems, changing demographics, and a lack of volunteers.

The stated goal of the two- to three-year fire services project is to come up with recommendations to make a more efficient, effective, and sustainable fire services system.

This fall, county staff has made presentations about the project to close to 40 individual fire agencies, ambulance providers, local government officials, fire associations, and other stakeholder groups. In addition, 11 community meetings have been held throughout the county to gain input. An Advisory Committee has also been created, made up of over 60 people whose role is to come up with potential recommendations for changes in the system.

Not unexpectedly, the feedback received so far from all the different fire agencies, the public, and other stakeholders has been varied, ranging from leaving things as they are to an emphasis on consolidating some of the fire organizations.

Concerns raised have included the potential negative impact on the ties local fire departments have with their communities, the need for better strategies to enlist volunteers, and the need to come up with more effective and equitable funding mechanisms.

The results of all the information gathering will be discussed at the Dec. 11 summit, which will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, 1351 Maple Ave., Santa Rosa.

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