Mayor responds to scathing story in SR newspaper
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By Pam Stafford  March 22, 2013 12:00 am


As mayor of Rohnert Park and on behalf of our public safety personnel, I am responding to the article recently appearing in a Santa Rosa newspaper raising questions about the readiness and ability of our city firefighters.

Several comments reported in the article were simply ill informed and have the potential to impact the morale of a public safety department that is highly professional and whose members put their lives on the line each and every day. I believe we can judge the true readiness of our public safety efforts by reviewing the history of our public safety model, one that combines police and firefighting services in one department, exploring our reliance on mutual aid for fire incidents that exceed our ability to fight alone and the statistics, which tell the real story.

The public safety department organization, utilized by Rohnert Park and protecting our residents for more than 50 years, is a hybrid style that combines police and fire services. 

As many people in the community know, our well-trained personnel alternate between service as a firefighter and a police officer, serving in each role for an extended period of time.  In each role, the individual receives extensive training to stay abreast of trends, techniques and equipment. 

While we are the only department in Sonoma County to combine police and fire services, other communities successfully do so across the nation. I believe this model works very well for Rohnert Park.

You may ask why some communities consolidate services? Simple. It works, it is safe for the community, and it saves money. As public servants, every employee of the city, including our dedicated public safety officers, are charged with meeting the needs and responsibilities of the community and doing so as efficiently as possible. For half a century, our combined public safety model has served our community well.

Along with a solid and well-tested combined public safety model, the City of Rohnert Park relies on the concept of mutual aid. 

When an emergency situation occurs that may exceed our ability to contain with only our resources at the scene, a call for mutual aid is made, and other agencies come to assist. Importantly, we provide the same assistance to other agencies and communities in similar need.

During a mutual aid call, a city such as ours often receives assistance from a larger agency. It is self-evident that in such a situation our firefighters may defer to the expertise of a commander from a larger agency. Why? Because larger agencies not only fight more fires, they typically have experience with more complex situations. 

We have been criticized for accepting direction from those with more experience, yet we believe that is the prudent thing to do.

In addition to accepting assistance, we believe in partnerships. As an example, Rohnert Park entered into an agreement where we pay to have the Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District send a battalion chief to fires in our community. This is a best practices approach that well serves both agencies. It should be noted Rancho Adobe is now closing its fire station in Cotati on a weekly basis. That would only be possible because Rohnert Park public safety is automatically responding to calls in Cotati. Mutual aid works for everyone.

Finally, one must explore the statistics related to Rohnert Park fire safety. 

Since 2008 and through year-end 2012, your firefighters responded to more than 16,000 calls for service, the vast majority of which were rescue/medical aid calls, not structure fires. In 2012, for example, we had only one structure fire that exceeded $100,000 in damage, with another sustaining $75,000 in damage. Importantly, no lives were lost and no injuries occurred.

All of us in Rohnert Park remain justifiably proud of our public safety officers. They are among the very best in the region. 

We remain well protected and know our public safety department will continue to perform at the highest level. Should you have any questions, please feel free to call me at City Hall, 588-2236.

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