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New Fire Trucks for Dry, Dangerous Backcountry

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Aired 4/19/09

San Diego's backcountry fire departments got new fire trucks today. County officials secured $4.2 million to buy them. KPBS reporter Andrew Phelps checked out the trucks.

Shelter Valley, just east of Julian, has a tiny volunteer fire department. The valley is sparsely populated and covered in dry brush: Prime wildfire country.

Volunteer Fire Chief Jerry Sanders gets two of the new fire trucks. And they are shiny.

Sanders : We'll keep them shiny, but when they come back from the strike team, you wouldn't recognize them. They're covered with mud and dirt, and they smell like they've been in a barbecue.

One of the trucks carries about 2,000 gallons of water.

Sanders : We can be, like, 20 miles away from the station, fighting a fire, without any reserve water. And having one of these on-hand will give us a break because it takes maybe a half-hour, 45 minutes to get outside agencies to respond.

Sanders says now he needs better training for his volunteer team.

Andrew Phelps, KPBS News.

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