Mount Shasta wants to study plan to share emergency services with Weed, Dunsmuir

Jessica Skropanic
Mount Shasta Herald
Mount Shasta City Fire Department volunteers douse a vehicle fire. Mount Shasta's City Council plan to explore possible ways to share fire and police services with Dunsmuir and Weed.

Mount Shasta is exploring the possibility of sharing emergency resources with other southern Siskiyou County communities.

The Mount Shasta City Council plans to hire a consulting firm to determine if the town could save money and shorten emergency response times if it combined its fire and police departments with those in Dunsmuir and Weed.

Some city officials believe the plan could save the cities money or upgrade services — but not both.

“We’ve authorized the city to put out a request for proposal for a consultant,” Mount Shasta City Councilman Tim Stearns said. 

Once officials hear offers and costs from consulting firms, then the council could decide if it goes ahead with the assessment, he said.

The council directed staff to seek those proposals on Jan. 11.

Todd Juhasz

Consolidating emergency services is the brainchild of councilmembers, who have been discussing it on and off for five years, Stearns said. “There’s been talk among the three cities about whether this is a good idea,” Dunsmuir and Weed are in a holding pattern while they wait to see what an investigation shows.

All three cities would have to agree there would be cost savings, and that they’ll get better services — or at least the same services — they get now to make this work, City Manager Todd Juhasz said.

Of the three cities, Mount Shasta and Weed have their own police departments, while Dunsmuir pays for police protection from the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office. 

Mount Shasta City Councilor Tim Stearns

For fire protection services, Dunsmuir relies on a volunteer department, while Weed has two full-time chiefs and a volunteer company. Mt. Shasta Fire, which serves the city and surrounding communities, has a combination of paid staff and volunteers.

Consolidation could work if staff stayed on at each city's department, but there's no way it would cost less, said former Mount Shasta Fire Chief Matt Melo, who retired in December. 

That's because every city would have to continue staffing its own departments to keep response time short, he said. "You’d still have minimum staffing at each city, and rely on volunteers (firefighters), but they'd work together.”

Mount Shasta Fire Department Fire Chief Matt Melo stands next to a department vehicle. Melo will retire in December 2021 after serving 18 years as fire chief, 36 years as a firefighter.

According to Juhasz, the consultant’s study would need to make recommendations on how:

  • Cities would deal with union contracts already in place
  • Police and firefighters would share equipment and personnel, including dispatch services
  • Consolidation would influence fire and police response times and where resources would go if emergencies erupted in two cities at the same time.

If those challenges can be worked out and it’s to everyone’s advantage, Juhasz said, "then we can take something concrete to Dunsmuir and Weed and say, 'We have a plan. Do you want to join in?'"

Calls and emails on Friday to Dunsmuir and Weed officials were not returned.

No one yet knows how much it will cost the city to hire a consulting firm, Juhasz said.

Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.