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Auburn poised to hire fire chief from Orange County

New open burning regulation proposed
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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By Gus Thomson

Of the Auburn Journal

Auburn is poised to have a fire chief after a three-year absence.

A salary agreement paying $145,000 a year is on the Auburn City Council agenda Monday and the name emerging from a statewide search and rigorous review process is Dave Spencer.

Spencer is currently a battalion chief with the Orange County Fire Authority and oversees a district that includes John Wayne Airport and the University of California, Irvine.

According to Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson, who is making the recommendation to hire Spencer as chief, he has the skills to develop “an even more professional day-to-day operation” while “moving the department forward in the directions we would like to see it advance.”

Spencer would take over from Public Safety Director John Ruffcorn on the fire side of Auburn’s operations. Ruffcorn retains the police command but is soon to retire.

The fire and police chief roles were combined in 2015 after the retirement of Fire Chief Mark D’Ambrogi, with Ruffcorn the Auburn Police chief since 2011 taking over both jobs.

Spencer’s selection would conclude a search that started with a decision in November by the City Council to move forward with a split of the two duties and a return to a fire chief position.

In advance of Monday’s session, Spencer has already successfully passed background and medical tests, Richardson said.

The meeting is scheduled to start at Auburn City Hall with the City Council going into closed session at 5:15 p.m.

Also on the agenda:

Is a proposal to only allow open burning when a temporary permit is obtained from the Auburn fire chief.

The current city fire code allows burning on allowable burn days with a permit that runs for one year. The proposed ordinance prohibits burning altogether within city limits, except when a temporary permit is granted by the fire chief. “Open burning” is being defined by the city in the new ordinance as burning materials “where products of combustion are emitted directly into the ambient air without passing through a stack or chimney from an enclosed chamber.”

Also prohibited without a permit would be any “recreational fire” not contained fitting city size requirements in an incinerator, outdoor fireplace, portable outdoor fireplace, barbecue grill or barbecue pit.

Burning takes place during the city’s wet weather season and is banned during drier months. The proposed ordinance states that with an average yearly rainfall for the city of about 30 inches, which occurs from November to May, emergency responders would need to be driving more cautiously because of rain.

“Wet roads can be present during winter months contributing to slick roadways and resulting in numerous vehicle collisions,” the ordinance states.