Residents in the unincorporated Julian and the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park regions have lost their volunteer fire department.
The San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission voted on Monday to approve the dissolution of the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District (JCFPD).
A room in the County Administration Center was packed with passionate community members opposed to the plan to transfer all fire protection and emergency medical services to the San Diego County Fire Authority.
Community members said they will be overlooked by a fire authority that is hundreds of miles away and that their volunteer fire department knows their community's needs better than an outside department.
"We want to retain local control of our fire department. We believe JCFPD can provide service that are far superior to organizations that are 50 or 600 miles away can do," said Patricia Landis, Julian resident and founder of pro-JCFPD group Julian Fire Plugs.
The JCFPD's Board of Directors voted 3-1 for dissolution in April, citing their financial struggles and aging facilities.
"How can I myself in good conscience tell our community that we are ready for the emergency when our district cannot provide, have the resources, nor even afford what we need to provide to protect our staff and community?" JCFPD Board Member Kristin Starlin said Monday.
The board of directors has not always been in agreement that the San Diego County Fire Authority should take control of their fire needs. In January, the board returned a 4-1 vote to remain independent.
The county had been giving the district $72,000 every year but decided to cut the funding after the district's January decision. It also pulled a paramedic and fire engine assigned to Julian and reassigned firefighters from Julian and Cuyamaca stations.
Opponents now have two weeks to collect about 2,500 signatures to appeal the decision and force a vote.