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Fire Services Transition Sees Modesto Ushered In
Oakdale Mayor JR McCarty, left, and Modesto Fire Chief Alan Ernst are all smiles as McCarty officially passes Ernst the ‘key’ outside the East G Street firehouse on Monday morning, July 1. Modesto Fire has taken over fire services for Oakdale city proper and Oakdale Fire Protection District.

With many thanks to Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District and its firefighters for many years of dedicated service, the City of Oakdale and Oakdale Fire Protection District entered a new era on Monday, July 1. The ceremonial ‘passing of the key’ was made to Modesto Fire Chief Alan Ernst, as the new contract for fire services took effect. Modesto Fire is now serving Oakdale city proper and the rural area of Oakdale Fire Protection District, including Knights Ferry and Valley Home.

The ceremony staged outside the East G Street fire station in Oakdale featured a Modesto Fire Department engine prominently displayed in front of the station and a contingent of local officials on hand for the key ceremony. Oakdale Mayor JR McCarty was there to pass the key to Ernst.

There were kudos all around as well, with the contract with Modesto coming together in near-record time, noted McCarty.

It was a cooperative effort, with Modesto City Council, Oakdale City Council, Modesto Fire and Oakdale Fire Protection District all having representatives at the table to work out the agreement.

“This is a great opportunity,” McCarty said, noting he also believes this contract will serve as a model for other communities in the county to follow.

“We’re very excited,” agreed Ernst. “This is a template for others to look at.”

Ernst also offered thanks to the work that Stanislaus Consolidated had done for the city and fire protection district over the past several years and he pointed to the fact that many of the personnel hired to handle the added workload for Modesto Fire under the new contract have worked previously either for Stanislaus Consolidated or Oakdale fire departments.

“I’m proud of the men and women behind me,” he said, motioning to the uniformed firefighters on hand for the Monday morning ceremony. “They’re the true heroes in all of this.”

Oakdale councilwoman Cherilyn Bairos said she was happy the agreement was reached and excited that the newly hired firefighters were “ready to rock and roll” for the community.

She also noted that she “had the privilege to get to know some amazing people” during the course of the fire contract negotiations and praised their effort in “jumping over any hurdle” to get the new contract in place.

Forty-eight firefighters applied and interviewed for the available positions, 25 were hired and 21 of those had previously worked in Oakdale in the past.

Both the East G Street and Willowood stations in Oakdale will be staffed with three firefighters, 24/7, while two will rotate for coverage at Knights Ferry and Valley Home. A Battalion Chief will also be added at the Willowood station.

“I think the leadership was a big factor,” added McCarty of the smooth transition. “Chief Ernst and his team, (Oakdale City Manager) Bryan (Whitemyer) did a great job.”

For his part, Whitemyer said he wanted to reiterate how thankful the city was for the fine work of Stanislaus Consolidated in the past but ultimately, it came down to finances and safety.

“Their depth of administrative resources allows us to provide a higher level of service,” Whitemyer said of the new contract with Modesto Fire.

Oakdale and Modesto city councils both approved the new contract, as did the Oakdale Fire Protection District Board, the pact getting put in place for the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

The original agreement is for three years, from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022, with two additional one-year options, Whitemyer added.

The extensive contract covers areas including personal protective equipment, inspection of property, capital improvements, title and use of stations and more.

The 2019-2020 fee schedule shows Oakdale Fire Protection District paying $1,972,957.73 for their portion of the contract, broken down in monthly payments of $164,413.14 while the City of Oakdale portion of the contract is $2,630,610.31 or a monthly payment of $219,217.53.

City Manager Bryan Whitemyer of Oakdale tells the crowd he had a very small part in the negotiations that brought Modesto Fire Department on board as the new provider of fire services in the city and Oakdale rural areas.