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San Diego County Expands Regional Fire Authority

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Aired 1/26/11

San Diego County's non-urban areas have been covered by a patchwork of small fire agencies. Five more agencies have agreed to join the county’s regional fire authority, bringing it one step closer to having a coordinated response system.

San Diego County is one step closer to having a coordinated fire response system for the back country. Five more local fire protection agencies agreed Tuesday to join the San Diego County Fire Authority.

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Map of SD County Regional Fire Authority

Map of SD County Regional Fire Authority

Map showing the three phases of integrating local ...

County supervisors created the regional authority in 2008, and half a dozen volunteer fire agencies are already members.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said it means more than a million acres of the county's unincorporated area are now under the umbrella of one agency.

“Although San Diego County remains the only large county in the state without some kind of a county-wide fire entity, this is the beginning of establishing our own model of a county-wide entity,” Jacob said.

San Diego County's non-urban areas have been covered by a patchwork of small fire agencies. That led to communication problems during the wildfires of 2003 and 2007.

“There were more than 60 different fire agencies putting out fires in our back country area. Communications and coordination was deeply lacking,” Jacob said. “Fast forward to today. This fire authority is the single united agency that responds to medical emergencies and puts out fires in the region’s most fire prone areas.”

The board is gradually rebuilding a network of fire agencies to cover the unincorporated area. Back in the late 1970s, they opted out of the business of fire protection for financial reasons.

The head of the Palomar Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, Chief George Lucia, said the community raised enough money for a fire engine with donations. The department now gets some financial help from the county for health insurance for its volunteer staff.

The remaining local fire agencies, including the Julian/ Cuyamaca Fire Protection District, may join the fire authority in 2012.

The county also works with CAL FIRE, which has 18 fire stations. Together they cover 1.5 million acres, more than half the total area of San Diego County.

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