With the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County entering its second week, local public servants are stepping forward to help. The Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) has sent a trio of dispatchers to Sonoma County.
“[Sonoma County has] a lot of fire personnel in the area of operation working on the fire and they need additional resources to be able to provide dispatch services for all that personnel,” said SCPD Captain Wahid Kazem. “They [also] have employees who are personally impacted by the fires that are unable to work their normal shifts because either their home is in the way of the fire or because they are physically evacuated to somewhere else and they need to make sure their families are okay.”
The SCPD dispatch center belongs to a nationwide agency called the Telecommunications Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT). When an emergency arises in a nearby city, the other cities jump in to offer mutual aid in any way they can.
SCPD have been sending three dispatchers to help. Each dispatcher works a 12-hour shift and then heads back to the South Bay.
“With commutes and stuff it can be 14, 15 hour days for them,” said Kazem. “We ask dispatchers who are on their days off if they’re available to help with this effort. Given that dispatchers, like police officers, are in the business of helping and being part of the law enforcement family, we get volunteers that are willing.”
The dispatchers are paid out of the City of Santa Clara’s overtime budget, but the City will be reimbursed at a later date through the California Office of Emergency Services.
“Our communications operations manager, that was the first thing she said to me, ‘We help out because I know these guys would come and help us if we needed it,’” said Kazem.
“We have a type one engine with four personnel committed to the Kincade Fire. We also have a battalion chief assigned as a safety officer assigned to the Kincade Fire,” said SCFD Battalion Chief Drew Miller. “We have another type one [engine] in Napa County for anticipated wind events. Prepositioned for any events that may be encountered.”
Miller says all of Santa Clara’s firefighters are trained to fight wildfires and dispatching three engines to help will not stretch the city’s resources.
“We’re fully staffed even when we commit those resources,” said Miller. “We deploy, typically commit, a total of three engines. Two is our normal complement and then we’ll do three for significant fire danger, but we also maintain resources within the City for any issues that may happen throughout the county.”
The fire department will also be reimbursed by the state for personnel costs and the prorated cost for equipment.