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[whitespace] Fire boundaries drop as county, Saratoga district start new era

Saratoga--Those who live in the northwestern section of Saratoga, squarely in the Saratoga Fire District, might be surprised to see a Santa Clara County Fire Department truck answering emergency calls in the coming weeks.

Beginning Aug. 30, the two fire districts effectively dropped their borders and now share a dispatcher, who sends the closest emergency vehicle from either district to incidents throughout the Saratoga area--regardless of where the emergency occurs.

And much of northwestern Saratoga is close by the county's Seven Springs station, prime territory for the new system to take over.

The key to implementing the "boundary drop"--as it's officially known--was switching the Saratoga Fire District into the county's main communications network. For almost two decades, 911 calls within the Saratoga Fire District have come straight to the Saratoga Avenue fire station.

"Where we used to have to rely on extra phone calls to get the county involved," said Saratoga Deputy Fire Chief Gordon Doncan last week, "Now things will start happening automatically."

County Fire Chief Doug Sporleder says the agreement he and Saratoga Fire Chief Ernie Kraule signed in mid-August will also make more firefighting resources available to his district, which stretches from Los Altos to the hills surrounding Lexington Reservoir.

As part of the boundary drop, Kraule agreed that the district would buy a ladder truck with a 75-foot aerial ladder at the Saratoga station by December 31, 2002. Kraule also agreed to next purchase a truck with off-road capability in order to combat wild fires.

"It provides more resources for us in an area where we're a little lean," said Sporleder.

Saratoga firefighters say the gains in the boundary drop were crucial. Drawing on county resources, there will automatically be 13 firefighters at each Saratoga structure fire. That's a minimum Saratoga personnel have pushed for throughout the past year.

But both Saratoga Union President Bill Morrison and his Santa Clara County counterpart Art Marshall say the situation is still not perfect; on a fraction of incidents in Saratoga that require added back-up, the county will have to call in San Jose city fire engines. The extra call will mean some added time for San Jose to respond.

Morrison said, "We got about 75 percent of what we wanted, and that's pretty good."
Oakley Brooks

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Web extra to the September 6-12, 2001 issue of Metro.

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