East County Residents in Shelter Valley Concerned Over Fire Response Delays

Some residents living in the eastern parts of Julian are angry and frightened over a lack of fire protection near their homes.

Shelter Valley residents say the problem isn't necessarily new, but they're bringing it to light after a woman suffered serious burns in a trailer fire Tuesday.

At approximately 8:36 a.m. on Tuesday, a trailer on the 7400 block of Last Dollar Trail in Shelter Valley caught on fire, according to Cal Fire. One woman suffered burns and was airlifted to UCSD Burn Center; three people were displaced.

Residents tell NBC 7 San Diego the one firefighter who was at the local fire station was not capable of driving a truck. A resident had to pick up the volunteer firefighter and take him to the fire. 

"We feel that if (fully capable and trained fire fighters at the local station) had been there and was able to get on the site in five, six minutes, they would have prevented the lady from going back in the unit to save her pets," said Clarence, a local resident.

The County got rid of the volunteers program and transitioned the Shelter Valley fire station, so it is staffed with county volunteer firefighters, who are just as qualified as any other firefighter. However, the result has been a lack in staffing.

When the change was made, County officials promised residents they would not be short-staffed, residents said. 

In a statement, Supervisor Dianne Jacob said:

"While the county since the 2003 Cedar Fire has made huge strides in boosting fire protection, including consolidating a patchwork of poorly funded volunteer fire agencies in our backcountry, maintaining adequate staffing 365 days a year at some of our more isolated stations remains a challenge for Cal Fire and the county. I will be meeting soon with Shelter Valley residents to hear their concerns and will continue to work with fire authorities to address this critical issue."

Fire Chief Tony Mecham says the Shelter Valley fire station has been uncovered 12 of the last 14 days, but not by choice.

The volunteer program is managed by Cal Fire, but the current volunteers are not Cal Fire Fighters.

Mecham says there's a shortage of San Diego County fire fighting volunteers. He says that's the biggest issue.

"We have about 250 reserves in the system now which is where we should be we just haven't had 250 reserves in the program long enough to be qualified to be drivers and that's where our focus is right now is doing everything we can to get those firefighters qualified to be drivers," he said.

Mecham says the Shelter Valley Fire Station is a priority, and he wishes he had the people to staff the station full time, because that's what residents want, too.

"We're equally as concerned with the residents about this," he said. 

Chief Mecham says they have 250 county volunteers, which is a good number, but few are qualified to drive. There are two dozen volunteers close to meeting that certification.

"They will predominantly be deployed to the three stations that we're short. Mount Laguna, Shelter Valley and and Sunshine Summit," he said.

A spokesperson for San Diego County’s office said the official log states it took an ambulance 24 minutes to arrive on scene. According to the spokesperson, the Montezuma Valley volunteer station was official unmanned on Monday and Tuesday because the personnel were moved to the Barona Fire

If someone would like to donate to the family affected by the fire, donations can be dropped off at Grandpa's Old Time Photo in Julian. They are accepting anything but money.

If San Diegans would like to donate money, they can head to any Wells Fargo branch. An account has been set up under the name "Ramey Fire Relief Fund." Checks can be made out to Ramey Fire Relief Fund and should be endorsed on the back with that name and for deposit only.

Persons wishing to do inter or intra bank transfers can contact Thomas Markel for an account number. The opening balance is $100. You can get in touch with Thomas at Luckyshadowranch@yahoo.com or (760) 315-3900. 

Shelter Valley residents tell me this problem isn't necessarily new but they're bringing it to light after a woman suffered serious burns in a trailer fire yesterday 
Contact Us