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S.D. County Firefighters Join Forces to Strengthen Fire Protection

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

For the first time, firefighters from different unions around San Diego County are joining forces. The "County Council of Firefighters" wants the priorities of crews on the ground considered, when public officials debate ways to strengthen fire protection around San Diego. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

After last year's wild fires burned 1,600 homes, the City of San Diego will buy another helicopter and the county is looking for ways to fund more fire trucks, airpower and regional coordination. Rick Fisher, president of the newly formed San Diego County Council of Firefighters, says firefighters want their concerns heard too. Fisher wants standards set so every fire engine has a crew of four aboard.

Fisher: If we pull up on a fire and we need to touch a hand line and put water on the fire and we only have three people on the engine, we have to wait till another engine gets there, so that, if the guys inside have a problem, you have enough people outside -- a rescue team -- that can quickly go in.

Fisher says the City of San Diego puts crews of four aboard their fire engines but many of the myriad of smaller agencies can barely afford three.

In San Diego County there are 18 municipal Fire Departments, eight Fire Protection Districts, three Federal Fire Agencies, one State Fire Agency and nine Tribal Fire Departments. Previous efforts to unify members of more than 30 different firefighter unions in San Diego County failed 15 years ago.

The new County Council of Firefighters adopted its bylaws this month.

Alison St John, KPBS News.

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