Today, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors voted to support the consolidation of three fire districts -- Rough & Ready Fire Protection District, Penn Valley Fire Protection District, and Nevada County Consolidated Fire District -- into one combined district.
The Board also approved the fire district chiefs’ request for up to $1 Million in temporary gap funding to operate Rough & Ready Fire Station #59 while the reorganization effort is underway.
Consolidated Fire Chief Jason Robitaille said the consolidation will allow the fire districts to increase efficiency and eliminate redundancies. He assured the supervisors they will get a good return on their investment. “We want the county to realize we’re an investment and not a bill,” he said.
The Board vote assures continued fire protection for the Rough & Ready community as their fire station was slated to close permanently on June 30. The County agreed to provide funds to “match” Rough & Ready Fire Protection District’s current funding allocation to ensure Station #59 is open 24/7. The County funds are tied to the three districts meeting agreed-upon milestones leading to their consolidation within one to two years. The $1 million breaks down to approximately $400,000 in Fiscal Year 2023-24 and $600,000 in Fiscal Year 2024-25.
Rough & Ready Fire Protection District initially announced its plans to dissolve in March. But over the past few months, the three fire districts developed this plan to reorganize into one district, which will have the long-term benefit of increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of fire protection while also keeping Rough & Ready Station #59 fully operational now.
Supervisor Sue Hoek, co-chair of the County’s Fire Services Ad Hoc Committee, said that her original focus was on simply ensuring that Station #59 remained open to serve her Rough & Ready constituents. “I couldn’t have predicted at the start that we’d be here today not only saving the station but consolidating all three districts into one, which will make everyone safer and more secure in the long run.”
Supervisor Lisa Swarthout, the other co-chair of the committee, is confident the County is making a good investment by supporting the consolidation. “I’m proud to support this consolidation plan. I commend the leadership of the fire districts and thank everyone involved,” she said.
The three districts’ reorganization application, expected to be submitted early next year, is subject to approval by the Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo).
LAFCo President Josh Susman praised the consolidation effort in a letter to the Board of Supervisors: “As we have seen this year, the financial state of several of our fire agencies is precarious. The failure of even one agency would have serious and widespread impacts on public safety, given the coordinated response patterns of our emergency response providers.”
The firefighters are enthusiastic about the prospect of the combined district as well.
Clayton Thomas, president of the Nevada County Professional Firefighters union, said his members are 100 percent in favor of the consolidation because of the increased efficiencies. He also praised all the involved agencies for working together. “I’ve never seen the kind of movement, the kind of collaboration, the kind of relationships built and fostered in such a short amount of time,” he said. “It is truly impressive.”