Columns
December 13, 2017
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Public Safety

Brian Masterson
Firestorm and public safety model
December 1, 2017

 

The Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety is nearly unique in California when it comes to police and fire protection. Most cites have separate fire and police departments. The officers assigned to either department are not cross trained to perform both police and fire duties. Of the approximately 500 police agencies in California, the City of Rohnert Park and the City of Sunnyvale are the only departments that cross train their officers to perform both police and fire duties. This Public Safety model, which has been in use in Rohnert Park since the city was founded in 1962, saves taxpayers’ money and provides our community with 57 trained police and 57 trained fire fighters. 

The value of this flexibility was very evident during the recent fires in Sonoma County.  On the morning of Oct. 9 when fires were quickly raging through our county and threatened the City of Rohnert Park, we were able to quickly mobilize two additional fire engines with a trained fire crew of four firefighters on each engine. These two additional fire crews were deployed in the early morning hours of Oct. 9. One of our extra engines assisted allied fire agencies on the Pressley Road fire that was moving toward Rohnert Park and Penngrove. Our other extra fire engine was deployed to Santa Rosa and assisted other county fire agencies with protecting Kaiser and Sutter Hospitals.  Because of our Public Safety model, we quickly joined the battle with other county fire agencies to save homes and lives under horrific fire conditions.

Without our Public Safety model it would have been more challenging to quickly mobilize our fire crews and support our neighboring communities. Public Safety is not an easy model to implement effectively; and it takes a special person who wants to serve their community providing both police and fire protection. I am extremely proud of the work that our Public Safety Officers performed in both roles during the recent firestorm. Our professional staff including our dispatchers did an excellent job of handling the extremely high call volume and putting to rest the fears of many when we had to evacuate G and H sections. All of the personnel assigned to Public Safety went into 12- hour shifts to provide the maximum coverage for our city and to support Santa Rosa and the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County.

Lastly, I want to thank our community for your support during a critical incident that was stressful for all of us.  Not knowing if the fire was going to come across Petaluma Hill Road and threaten the eastern side of our community was anxious and nerve wrecking.  Our local residents and businesses demonstrated their support of our department by dropping off food and snacks for our staff during the two weeks of the fires. The strength in our community is our residents who stayed calm and supported us when we needed it most. Thank you for what you do to make Rohnert Park a special community that cares and looks out for one another during critical incidents. Public Safety works best when we partner with our residents.