San Diego County's Last All Volunteer Fire Department May Soon Be Dissolved
Residents from the Julian-Cuyamaca area voted in a special election this week to decide the fate of their volunteer fire department.
Last year, the Fire Protection Board voted to dissolve the volunteer department, but supporters of the volunteers gathered enough signatures to bring the issue to a special election.
The election was conducted by mail, and ballots are still being counted. The Registrar of Voters will be counting all ballots that come in by March 22 as long as they were postmarked by election day, March 19. The election is expected to be certified on April 4.
Fire protection board member Bill Everett said the volunteers' supporters are not giving up until all the ballots have been counted. Everett is one of several pro-volunteer board members sworn in since the last board voted to dissolve the volunteer fire department. All the board members now support the volunteers.
Everett said the board plans to have a few closed session meetings to discuss if there are any other options they can pursue to keep the all-volunteer fire department.
"There's a lot of people who are very sad about this, not just the volunteers, but the hundreds of people who supported the volunteers are obviously not happy about this," Everett said. "At the end of the day, it's going to be played out at the Registrar of Voters or the courts. We're not just giving up and walking away. There are a lot of unanswered questions that have to be addressed."
"Assuming that once the vote results are certified by Michael Vu (Registrar of Voters), there is no recourse under state law," said Keene Simonds, executive officer of the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission, the agency responsible for the formation or dissolution of special districts around the county. LAFCO received the petition signatures that resulted in the special election. "The voters have had their say and it is a done deal," Simonds said.
Simonds said if the votes are certified for dissolution, a transition plan will be put into place. He plans to have a meeting with the County Fire Authority and members of the Julian-Cuyamaca Area Fire Protection District to discuss the transition. He hopes to have the County Fire Authority in control of that area by the end of this fiscal year or July 1.
Currently, the volunteers are still manning the Julian Department and continue to respond to calls.