The Placentia City Council has voted to part ways with the Orange County Fire Authority and establish its own city-run fire department.
The city had contracted with the OCFA for the past 23 years.
“Establishing a locally controlled and operated City of Placentia Fire Department — with no additional cost to taxpayers — provides our residents the best innovation for life-saving services,” City Administrator Damien Arrula said. “Our own local city fire department model allows the city to expand the excellent local services residents rely upon with direct accountability to our taxpayers and residents.”
A city-run fire department will provide an increased capacity to quickly dispatch ambulances to emergency 911 calls, “saving lives, time and money for our residents,” Mayor Rhonda Shader said. “This model increases 911 collaboration and life-saving services in an integrated public safety model, by bringing all of these services into greater transparency and accountability to our Placentia citizenry.”
The move will also provide for greater collaboration with the city’s police department and allow the city to re-invest in the department, PPD Chief Darin Lenyi said.
“The city will be undertaking the decisive steps necessary to ensure a seamless transition,” Mayor Pro Tem and Former Police Chief Ward Smith said. “We look forward to continuing to serve and keep the community informed as we improve these essential life-saving services for our residents.”
An Orange County Fire Authority spokeswoman sharply disagreed with the city’s assessment.
“There’s some overall inaccuracies and misleading information throughout their proposal and presentation made (Tuesday) night,” said the OCFA’s Colleen Windsor. “We are concerned the City Council voted on a presentation with inaccuracies in it.”
For instance, Windsor said city officials have contended they have three paramedics each shift under the OCFA contract, but at a minimum it’s four paramedics.
OCFA officials say the city’s proposal relies on mutual aid responses from neighboring cities. But Placentia will not be equipped to respond to its neighbors in kind, Windsor said.
“OCFA and likely we would assume neighboring cities may have to consider charging a fee for providing service,” Windsor said. “They can’t give us the same equal service in return. Mutual aid is built on reciprocity.”
Placentia officials invited the fire authority to respond to a Request for Proposals, but the agency declined because the city wanted to split up firefighting and paramedic services.
“We said we can’t because it’s like you’re asking a plumber to do electrical work,” Windsor said.
Otherwise, the city did not ask to renegotiate its contract with the fire authority, she said.
The company the city hired for paramedic services has never worked in Orange County and the fire authority is concerned how it will perform, Windsor said.
“At the end of the day we’re concerned about the citizens, and we want the best service possible,” she said.
Most smaller cities are looking to join larger organizations to save money as it cuts down on administrative costs, Windsor said.
Brea and Fullerton merged their departments in 2011, and the Garden Grove City Council recently voted to dissolve its department and contract with the fire authority, starting in August.