There are ten local government fire districts on the west slope of El Dorado County. They are Cameron Park CSD, El Dorado County FPD, El Dorado Hills Fire Dept, Garden Valley FPD, Georgetown FPD, Latrobe FPD, Mosquito FPD, Pioneer FPD, Latrobe FPD and Rescue FPD. Each fire agency has its own governing board. In addition, the California Department of Forestry and the United States Forest Service are fully staffed during fire season.
All of these fire agencies have one thing in common: they respond to the emergency and take care of it. In 1997, local fire agencies and their governing boards agreed to work by the “closest resource” concept. The idea is straight forward: the closest available emergency resource is dispatched to the emergency, regardless of which fire district the emergency is actually in. In essence, this means that the taxpayer will get the quickest response to their emergency regardless of who actually has statutory responsibility. All of the west slope agencies, including the forest agencies, have signed an agreement to operate in this fashion. By dropping geographical boundaries, the fire districts now operate as a functionally “consolidated” fire district yet still maintain local control. In El Dorado County, it is commonplace to see fire apparatus from several agencies at one emergency.
What happens when the emergency exceeds the capabilities of the El Dorado County resources? The State of California has perhaps one of the best systems in the United States for mitigating emergencies. By written agreement, fire agencies routinely move fire apparatus from one end of the state to the other. The movement of all of those resources is controlled via a state network of local fire chiefs and officials from the California State Office of Emergency Services. During the recent devastating fires in Southern California, hundreds of fire personnel and apparatus from Northern California responded to help. In fact, the firefighter who died in the Southern California fires was from the Bay area. During the Oakland Hills fire, firefighters from Southern California were there to help. This type of mutual aid assistance is pre-planned and used to deal with any major disaster including floods, earthquakes or other natural disaster.
The key to the success of the mutual aid system is the willingness of the fire agencies statewide to work together. The inter-agency cooperation is the reason the mutual aid system works so well. It has become a model for the rest of the nation to follow.