Nevada City, CA – Three local fire districts announced their intention to explore reorganization as one new district at today’s meeting of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo).

Uniting the three independent fire districts — Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, Penn Valley Fire Protection District, and Rough & Ready Fire Protection District – would strengthen and stabilize fire services for over 25,000 households and could be in place within a year.

“Our professional firefighters support the idea of reorganization because they know that streamlining administration with one chief means more boots on the ground,” said Penn Valley Fire District Captain Clayton Thomas, president of the Nevada County Professional Firefighters, Local 3800.

Today’s announcement follows the Rough & Ready Fire Protection District’s June 13th decision to suspend its application to LAFCo to dissolve. Rough & Ready took this action to allow time for the reorganization to proceed with the reassurance that the Rough & Ready Station #59 will remain in operation. Starting July 1st, Station #59 will be jointly staffed full-time by Penn Valley and Nevada County Consolidated with two firefighters daily.

Penn Valley Fire Protection District Chief Don Wagner and Nevada County Consolidated Fire District Chief Jason Robitaille, whose districts surround the Rough & Ready District, have partnered to ensure the Rough & Ready Station #59 remains open to serve area residents. However, the cost to operate a 24/7 fire station exceeds $1 million annually, and with Rough & Ready’s revenues under $500,000, the chiefs requested County assistance in closing the gap.

“In the short term, we need to keep the Rough & Ready Station open. This is an all-hands on deck situation, and I applaud the County’s partnership to help keep the station open. That will give us breathing room to reorganize so we don’t face situations like this again,” said Penn Valley Fire Chief Don Wagner.

Nevada County Board of Supervisors Chair Ed Scofield appointed Supervisor Sue Hoek and Supervisor Lisa Swarthout to co-chair a Fire Services Ad hoc Committee. The Committee supports the vision of the three fire districts consolidating as one district and ensuring a continuation of emergency response services for Rough & Ready’s residents in the meantime.

The Committee is working with the three fire districts to develop a joint agreement to support the reorganization, which if approved by LAFCo, would also keep Station #59 open during the year-long process. The draft agreement calls for the County to support the reorganization by pledging up to $500,000 per year for the next two years to operate Station #59, with County funds matching Rough & Ready’s existing revenues. The proposed reorganization process will include a finance and operations plan, which is expected to demonstrate the financial sustainability of the newly reorganized district. The final agreement will be considered by the fire district boards in July and by the Board of Supervisors in August.

“The County recognizes that our independent fire districts are essential community partners in ensuring public safety – from fighting residential and wildland fires to responding to critical medical calls. I commend Chief Wagner and Chief Robitaille for their selfless dedication to explore a lasting solution that has the County’s full attention. They truly live by ‘service before self,’” said Supervisor Sue Hoek, whose district encompasses Rough & Ready and Penn Valley.

“This financial crisis isn’t isolated to Rough & Ready. Smaller fire districts are under similar pressures everywhere. Reorganizing is a long-term strategy to increase fiscal health and operational stability,” said Chief Robitaille.