Why new partnership between Modesto fire, Oakdale agencies leave mayors smiling

Officials gathered Monday morning at Oakdale Fire Station No. 28 to mark the start of a partnership among Modesto, Oakdale and the Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District in which Modesto will provide fire services for the two.

“This is a great day for the city of Oakdale,” said JR McCarty, the city’s mayor, before about three dozen firefighters as well as officials from the two cities and the fire district.

Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold said as cities “struggle coming up with ways to save money and balance our budgets, it only makes sense to collaborate and work together to bring vital services to our citizens.”

Oakdale and the Oakdale district cut their ties with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District, which had provided them with fire protection services for five years. Consolidated has faced such issues as turnover among its fire chiefs and drawing down its budget reserves.

The officials gathered Monday in Oakdale thanked Consolidated, and Consolidated thanked them in a Facebook post and offered support in the transition.

The governing bodies for Modesto, Oakdale and the Oakdale district approved a three-year agreement with an option for two additional years. Oakdale will pay Modesto $8.3 million over the three years, and the Oakdale district will pay $6.2 million.

Modesto will staff Oakdale’s two stations with three firefighters per station and alternate coverage of the district’s Valley Home and Knights Ferry stations with two firefighters. The two Oakdale agencies will continue to own the buildings and equipment.

Modesto hired 25 Consolidated firefighters for the new contract.

Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said his city will pay Modesto slightly more than what it paid Consolidated last year but is getting a lot more service. The number of firefighters is rising from 21 to 25.

The additional firefighters mean both Oakdale stations will be fully staffed with three each. Previously, one station had been staffed with two. And Oakdale is getting a battalion chief.

Whitemyer said Oakdale looked at staying with Consolidated, restarting its Fire Department or contracting with Modesto. He said going with Modesto made the most sense and provides a depth of service, including administrative support, that was not available through the two other options.

Stanislaus Consolidated will continue to serve its original area, which includes the east edge of Modesto along with Riverbank, Empire, Waterford and La Grange.

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Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness and general assignment for The Modesto Bee. He is a graduate of San Jose State University and grew up in San Jose.