A series of wildland fires west of Davis last week marked the launch of a countywide training partnership that officials say will improve fire service and safety across Yolo County, even during an era of shrinking budgets.
The Davis, UC Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento fire departments have joined forces to create the West Valley Regional Fire Training Consortium, a cooperative effort to share resources and maintain standard operating guidelines.
Their first joint training exercise took place over several days last week, with the four member agencies — along with the West Plainfield and Yocha Dehe fire departments — practicing wildland fire suppression on a riparian reserve near Russell Boulevard and County Road 95.
“When I became fire chief, I wanted to not give up on this idea of regional collaboration,” said UCD Fire Chief Nathan Trauernicht, who earlier this year saw merger talks between the Davis and campus fire departments placed on a temporary hold.
Talks of a consortium began in late May, when UCD hired West Sacramento fire’s training and operations division chief, John Heilmann, away from that agency.
Trauernicht said he turned around and made West Sacramento an offer: Let us manage your training division, in exchange for which you give us a 40-hour-a-week captain to assist Heilmann in that effort.
The Davis and Woodland fire departments, which also have lost their dedicated training chiefs to budget cuts, eventually came on board as well, offering either financing or personnel to help support the partnership.
“What we’re trying to do is put together something that none of us could sustain on our own,” Trauernicht said.
And with all four agencies working under standard operating guidelines, “you get a more effective response force, because everyone operates as one,” he added.
Led by the chiefs of the four participating agencies, the consortium’s services include the development of an annual training calendar that meets all mandates by the state, federal and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as specialized training to suit each department’s unique needs.
“I think what we’re going to get from this is the best of all departments,” said Shawn Kinney, division chief for the Davis Fire Department. “Times are tough, but we still need to get the same job done.”
The consortium may eventually expand to include other fire agencies in the region, Trauernicht said. Dixon, for example, already is part of an automatic aid agreement with Yolo County and would be a natural fit.
“The huge thing here is we’re having these conversations and developing relationships,” Kinney said.
Trauernicht also envisions the partnership leading to shared resources in other areas, such as fleet purchases and services, plus the equipment cleaning and repairs that all fire departments require.
“Who knows what the future holds?” Trauernicht said.
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or (530) 747-8048. Follow her on Twitter @laurenkeene