By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Central Fire: new name, same service.
That’s the motto for the newly created entity that began business Thursday representing both the Windsor and Rincon Valley fire districts.
Central Fire was formed by a “joint powers agreement” that created a new agency overseeing both fire departments.
Members of the public “won’t immediately see anything different, other than the way people answer the telephone here,” said Central Fire Chief Doug Williams, formerly Rincon Valley’s chief.
The transition to one administrative entity was facilitated by the retirement of longtime Windsor Chief Ron Collier at the end of July.
Central Fire does not intend to hire a full-time replacement for that position, leading to a savings of around $100,000, Williams said.
“As revenues have declined and expenses have increased, it put us in a position where we couldn’t maintain a fourth chief’s position,” he said.
The new arrangement is intended to provide a unified command structure and allow for other savings by eliminating duplication of staff duties and supplies.
Each fire district continues to exist with its own name, budget, firefighting staff and payroll.
Williams said emergency response times will not change, nor the way firefighters are dispatched.
The two adjacent, sprawling fire districts have worked closely in the past and have mutual response to many calls. For nearly five years, both chiefs worked at the Windsor fire headquarters at Old Redwood Highway and Ember Lane.
The declining property tax revenues that both districts rely on — coupled with increased health, pension and workers compensation costs — has spurred talk of full consolidation, to save even more money.
That would involve redrawing district boundaries and creating one elected board of directors instead of two. It would also require approval from the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission.
“The consolidation question has a lot more pieces to it,” Williams said. “We’re nowhere ready to make a good assessment of it at this point.”