Staff Depth

The Butte Emergency Command Center (ECC) staff includes eight Fire Captains, eight Communication Operators, and one Battalion Chief. Current winter staffing is three personnel during the day and two at night. During summer months, the minimum daytime staffing is four personnel with two at night. The ECC Duty Officer may add additional staffing as needed. 

Depth of qualified personnel is an important component to our command-and-control system. During normal business hours, Monday through Friday, the Butte ECC typically has between four and six trained ECC personnel (made up of on-site staff, which allows staffing of key command center positions within minutes). This has proven extremely valuable during incidents like the U-2 spy plane crash in North Oroville (1996); the Oroville Dam Spillway failure (2017); the Camp Fire (2018) that burned 153,336 acres and devastated the communities of Concow and Paradise; the North Complex West Zone Fire (2020) that burned through the communities of Berry Creek and Feather Falls and threatened the city of Oroville; and the Dixie Fire (2021), which ignited in our response area and burned nearly one million acres in five counties.

Other complex incidents handled by the BTU ECC have included civil unrest situations, major transportation system accidents with significant hazardous material threats, and storm-related emergencies. Each of these incidents poses specific command-and-control issues that our ECC is ready to meet and support. 

The Butte ECC is also the OES Operational Area mutual aid coordination center for Butte County. This establishes responsibility for coordinating fire mutual aid requests for all jurisdictions within Butte County. This also gives the Butte ECC the authority to directly obtain resources from all our neighboring counties including Yuba, Sutter, Plumas, Glenn, Colusa, Tehama, and Lassen. 

Another critical pre-arrival care function is Emergency Medical Dispatching or EMD. EMD consists of pre-arrival emergency medical instruction given to 911 callers by the dispatchers to render emergency care before arrival of fire engines and the ambulance. CAL FIRE/BCFD is the only fire department in Butte County that provides this service. 


There are five readiness levels ranging from normal day-to-day operations with three personnel, to heavy staffing levels that may require eight to twelve personnel or more. These readiness levels allow us to staff up to seven radio positions and five call-taking positions in our Command Center. 

The Butte ECC maintains a high level of system readiness. This requires constant training, evaluation, and upgrading of various ECC tools and systems. All of our assigned personnel must complete four weeks of formal command center operations training at the CAL FIRE Academy in Ione, CA.

Telephone System - 911 System

The Butte ECC is a secondary Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) which means all 911 calls are first answered by the primary PSAP, which is the jurisdictional law enforcement agency. If the call is for fire, rescue, medical, or other non-law enforcement emergencies/calls for service, the caller is immediately transferred to the Butte ECC. 

The Butte ECC currently processes around 48 incidents per day or approximately 17,500 each year. Incidents occur 24 hours per day with most incidents occurring between noon and midnight. 

Radio Practices

Within 30 seconds of receiving a 911 call, the ECC will transmit three alert tones and announce the community, type of incident, and address. This is known as the "pre-announcement". The pre-announcement is a key component of our dispatch operation. Upon receiving the pre-announcement, resources are expected to don appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and respond if the incident is within their planned response area based on the standard response level for the specific type of incident (fire, hazmat, medical, etc.).  

After the pre-announcement, station "quick calls" are sent out, and resources dispatched. The ECC then completes a response check back, names the incident, and assigns a tactical frequency.

If multiple calls are received, those incidents are pre-announced and dispatched in order of priority. Medicals in order of seriousness, rescues, fires, and other incidents all have an assigned priority. 

Expanding Operations

Large, complex incidents are moved from the primary dispatch frequency to a dedicated command support net which reduces traffic on the primary dispatch frequency. The Butte ECC has a total of five command / support nets to choose from. All resources arriving at incidents are required to switch to a tactical frequency. These frequencies allow resources on several different incidents to operate simultaneously without interfering with one another.


CAL FIRE/Butte County Fire Department responded to and/or processed 18,918 emergencies and calls for service in 2021. More than half of those calls were for medical emergencies. The total number of all types of fires equaled 1,090 with 402 of those being for wildland fires. There were 13 hazardous materials responses involving chemicals or suspected chemicals. The Technical Rescue Team and Swiftwater Rescue Team responded to a total of 55 calls. 

In addition to fire engine responses, the department’s Emergency Command Center (ECC) provided 6,705 “Emergency Medical Dispatch” instructions. These are calls where, prior to the arrival of the fire engine and ambulance, trained dispatchers give lifesaving instructions to the 911 caller in instances such as severe bleeding, heart attacks, choking, and childbirth.