County Fire Authority to Take Over 2 Rural Agencies

Two rural fire districts will soon become part of the San Diego County Fire Authority – a move sanctioned the day after a grand jury report found multiple back country agencies are not working with the central organization.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to start the steps needed to bring the San Diego Rural and Pine Valley fire protection districts under the Fire Authority’s umbrella.

The agencies have filed applications to dissolve and transfer fire coverage to the county, handing over their assets and liabilities. Officials say that transition should be finished by the end of 2015.

The supervisors’ decision follows the release of a grand jury report that looked at fire protection in the back country. The grand jury found 13 of the county’s 28 agencies have not joined the Fire Authority, though they do have mutual aid agreements with the county. Those 13 districts make up 22 percent of the county’s unincorporated area, or 500,000 acres.

The report also states there are “islands” within San Diego County not covered by any fire agency.

The Fire Authority was created after San Diego’s massive fires in 2003 and 2007. Learning from missteps during those firestorms, county leaders wanted a central organization to support rural fire agencies and cover areas that had limited or part-time protection.

The grand jury found that since the Fire Authority’s inception, “San Diego County significantly increased its ability to fight fires in the backcountry.” Aiding in that effort is the county’s contract with CalFire to provide more services, equipment and aerial assets.

Still, there is more work to do, according to the report. If the 13 unincorporated agencies consolidate under the Fire Authority, the grand jury says their ground and air attacks on blazes could be better coordinated, they could get the same training, and they would have access to the right equipment – regardless of funds.

The report also recommends offering special services -- such as vehicle maintenance, business services and contracting – to encourage other agencies to join the Fire Authority.

Read the full report here: 

DV.load("//", { width: 620, height: 700, sidebar: false, container: "#DV-viewer-2080758-back-country-fire-protection-report" }); Back Country Fire Protection Report (PDF)
Back Country Fire Protection Report (Text)
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