The City Council this week gave its enthusiastic support to a plan to form a special fire district with 15 other cities that receive emergency service from the county.
Council members said Tuesday that such a district would give local officials more control over setting Orange County Fire Department policies and might also bring improved service.
The plan must be approved by all 16 city councils as well as the Local Agency Formation Commission and the state Legislature before the district can be formed.
Irvine is the largest city being served by the County Fire Department. If the plan is approved, the fire district could take over all fire stations, equipment and personnel in Irvine as soon as next year.
Irvine City Manager Paul O. Brady Jr. stressed Tuesday that such a takeover would have little noticeable impact on the quality of fire service that residents receive.
Formation of the district would transfer oversight of the Fire Department from the County Board of Supervisors to a district board made up of council members from the 16 cities.
Officials said the board would give local elected officials a larger say in setting long-term goals and deciding how best to spend taxpayer money.
Councilwoman Paula Werner said forming the district represented “the next logical step” for cities like Irvine to take as they mature.
Irvine has “changed from the time when we looked to the Board of Supervisors for help,” Werner said. “I think this is a positive growing-up step.”
Residents would pay for district fire service in the same way they now pay for county service--out of their property taxes.
Irvine residents contributed $18 million to the County Fire Department last year and received about $12 1/2 million worth of fire service, said Larry Larsen, executive assistant to the city manager.
Having a voice on a fire district board might make it easier for Irvine “to address the equity issue in the future,” Larsen added.