|Battling the Witch Creek fire in 2007 — Sean M. Haffey|
Consolidation of rural fire departments continue
The ongoing effort to consolidate and improve fire and emergency medical services in the unincorporated parts of the county has entered a third phase with the San Diego County Board of Supervisors’ acceptance this week of a five-year Fire Master Plan.
The San Diego County Fire Authority was established in 2008 with the goal of improving fire service in rural areas by reorganizing multiple volunteer fire agencies by bringing them under one central command and making staffing and physical requirements for firefighters more uniform.
Since then, the Authority has gained control or entered into contracts with most of the rural fire departments, but there are still some holdouts who say the concept of “volunteer” fire departments is evaporating because the red tape required to help out has become too much to bear.
Some backcountry departments — even those that are already members of the Authority — resent the loss of local control.
The Authority, working closely with Cal Fire, supports 15 rural fire agencies, including nine volunteer stations, and extends round-the-clock protection to roughly 1.5 million acres.
The second phase of the plan, initiated in January of 2011, dissolved the boundaries of five of the seven remaining volunteer fire departments (Mt. Laguna, Palomar Mountain, Boulevard, Campo and San Pasqual).
The master plan accepted Tuesday by the supervisors is a planning document for the next five years and initiates the third phase which will consider the future reorganization of the San Diego Rural Fire Protection District and Pine Valley departments into the Authority. It also lays out a series of steps to replace equipment, add staff, and increase training opportunities.