Controversial Plan Calls to Reduce Role of Cal Fire

A controversial plan in Valley Center to reduce the role of Cal Fire has residents fuming.

The Valley Center Fire Protection District is in charge of hiring fire protection resources in the region. District administrator John Byrne says it must reduce the role of Cal Fire in the area or risk going bankrupt.

“In the aggregate, we would lose $1.2 million to $1.4 million just on the Cal Fire contract,” says Byrne.

Cal Fire has been contracted to fight fires in the region since 1984. Currently, its crews staff stations 72 and 73 in Valley Center. Under the new plan, station 73 would be manned by the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians Fire Department.

“We take the position there is going to be absolutely zero change in the level of service being provided,” said Byrne.

A Cal Fire spokesperson says the district has rejected a proposal to cut costs. They also have concerns with the legality of a contract with a tribal fire department.

Cal Fire also worries about incident command at the fires – mainly who would be in charge of various crews.

Meanwhile, many residents are upset that they were not informed of the pending changes.

“I’m sadly disappointed in the board that we elected that they have kept this information from us,” said 26-year Valley Center resident Lori Roach. “We put our trust in the people we elect and I think they’ve really let us down."

Roach lost a daughter in the 2003 Paradise fire. Another daughter, Allyson, suffered burns over 80 percent of her body.

After residents spoke at a public meeting Thursday night and voiced their opposition to any changes in Cal Fire staffing, the board agreed to postpone the decision until next month's meeting.

In the meantime, members agreed to post on it's website the proposed deal with San Pasqual and Cal Fire's contract so that residents can compare the two.

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