The Oakdale area might have a temporary solution for providing fire service

The city of Modesto would run the Oakdale area’s fire service for at least three years under an agreement to be considered Wednesday afternoon.

The discussion comes about a month shy of the June 30 end of contracts with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District. It has provided fire and emergency medical services to the city of Oakdale and the Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District since 2014. The parties could not agree on extensions.

The proposed agreement will go before a 5 p.m. joint meeting of the Oakdale City Council and the Oakdale Rural board in the council chambers, 277 N. Second Ave. If they approve it, the Modesto City Council could take it up June 11.

The agreement calls for annual payments to Modesto of $2.63 million from the city of Oakdale and $1.97 million from Oakdale Rural. The district serves a 324-square-mile zone that includes Valley Home, Knights Ferry and areas north of Modesto Reservoir and north of Woodward Reservoir.

The agreement would boost the Oakdale area’s force from 21 to 25 firefighters thanks to “economies of scale” across all agencies, Modesto Fire Chief Alan Ernst said by phone Tuesday. That includes three rank-and-file employees and a battalion chief whose duties include the Oakdale area.

The Modesto Fire Department would recruit Oakdale area firefighters from Stanislaus Consolidated but is not required to hire them. Modesto would offer pay and benefits “pretty comparable” to the current arrangement, Ernst said. He would be the fire chief in the contract areas.

The agreement would run through June 2022 but could be extended another two years if the partners agree. All of them would have representatives on an advisory committee on budgeting, union negotiations and other Oakdale area matters.

Stanislaus Consolidated is based in Riverbank and also provides service on the east edge of Modesto and in Empire, Waterford and La Grange. The Modesto Fire Department shares no physical boundaries with the Oakdale-area lands it might take on, but Ernst said they already cooperate on emergency calls.

The city of Oakdale and the rural district are splitting from Stanislaus Consolidated because of concerns about its financial condition, the cost of a contract with its firefighters, frequent vacancies in the fire chief’s position, and other matters.

The new agreement calls for the city of Oakdale and the rural district to retain ownership of their stations, as they have during the contract with Stanislaus Consolidated. Modesto would provide fire investigations, safety inspections at Oakdale-area businesses and fire prevention efforts.

“We’re excited to be able to provide service to the community of Oakdale and look forward to a long, sustained partnership,” Ernst said.