The UC Davis Fire Department originated in 1917 as a student/faculty fire brigade. The Department was formalized in the 1950s with the hiring of the first full-time career fire chief and career daytime staffing. Student firefighters continued to provide night staffing until the University transitioned to 24-hour career firefighter staffing in the 1980s. Since then, the Student Resident Firefighter program has continued to supplement the career staff during the school term.
The Fire Department is co-located with the UC Davis Police Department in a single public safety building on the west-central section of the main campus. The Department staffs one engine and one aerial ladder truck daily with a minimum of six career personnel, with Student Resident Firefighters providing augmented staffing during the school term. The Department is also the lead agency for the Yolo County Multi-Agency Hazardous Materials Response Team, and has a specialized Hazardous Materials Response (HazMat) unit for this service.
The University environment presents some unique challenges for a fire department. In addition to its multi-cultural population and normal fire and non-fire risks such as medical and rescue response, the following risks to be protected against fire and other emergency problems are present:
- A number of different types of research facilities and laboratories present unique hazards.
- 26 Bio Hazard Level (BHL) 3 labs.
- A large research center using radiation.
- Intellectual Property (IP) and research records.
- In addition to being a large provider of intellectual knowledge in agriculture, animal, and medical sciences, there are nearly 8,000 annual campus events with 5.8 million attendees.
- Major thoroughfares and utility networks also traverse the campus, including freeways, railways, and high-pressure natural gas and electrical transmission lines.
This uniqueness and diversity of population and risk, education and research, compels the Fire Department to provide an all-hazard, all-risk approach to its service delivery and take extra precautions to prevent the loss of critical research data. The loss of any of these due to a fire or other disaster could take years or decades to replicate, and could have serious consequences for the affected discipline’s research for many years.