Fire officials debate potential Los Altos Hills department consolidation

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Local firefighting officials is speaking out loudly on both sides of potential consolidation of West Valley fire services.

The Los Altos Hills County Fire District covers a wide swath of western Santa Clara County on both side of I-280. Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors is considering consolidating it with the County Fire Department.

John Byrne, head of the Santa Clara Chapter of CAL FIRE Local 2881, pushed back strongly late Thursday.

“The decision to transfer emergency response, or consolidate emergency services, is a process that should never be done lightly,” Byrne said.

“The idea of jamming this through in an environment of toxic smoke and scared citizens is not sensible, and it is unfair to put the Board of Supervisors in a position where facts are muddied by differing ambitions,” he continued.

County firefighters have advocated for consolidating Los Altos Hills’ fire district with the county’s services. CAL FIRE and Santa Clara County Firefighters are different organizations, with their own distinct firefighter unions.

Adam Cosner, head of the County Firefighters Local Union 1165, has said a recent audit shows the district needs consolidation.

“What’s really difficult about this is we had a great relationship with the fire district … but when this audit came out and we reviewed it, we thought this isn’t right, this is not how this should go,” Cosner told KTVU in August.

Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors seems split on the potential consolidation. Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez voted in August to suspend the district. Supervisor Mike Wasserman opposed it. Supervisor Joe Simitian, who represents the part of the county in question, also opposes consolidation. That leaves Supervisor Susan Ellenberg as the swing vote.

Supervisors are set to vote on consolidation at a meeting on Tuesday, October 6.