A quarter of all rural stations were closed –at the same time—during April
An East County Magazine special investigative report
By Miriam Raftery
July 31, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – The County Fire Authority has touted its successes in preventing the May wildfires in North County from destroying thousands of homes despite a county-wide disaster declaration. Granted, a lot has improved since the devastating 2003 and 2007 firestorms in our region--the worst in California's history. But if fires were to start in East County today, the outcome could be tragic. An East County Magazine investigation raises serious doubts over inadequate volunteer firefighter staffing and the ability to respond even to routine house fires and medical calls in some rural communities.
Last October, our investigative report,"Closed for Fire Season" revealed that Boulevard’s fire station was closed for two months during fire season and Jacumba’s station also had some dark days- -including one when a resident died of a medical emergency after a delay in emergency services arriving. The County responded by funding emergency staffing and according to Supervisor Jacob’s staff, these two stations remained open every day for at least several months thereafter, an ECM records check in late April revealed.
But on July 9, Craig Williams, an information technology provider for the Campo Fire Department, advised ECM that “without any notification to the community leaders." two days ago Cal Fire “moved the overtime, off-budget, paid Cal Fire firefighters out of Boulevard to Jacumba Hot Springs. Now Boulevard is stuck with Fire Authority `volunteers’ only, just like Campo.’”
Worse, a new investigation by ECM reveals that this is the tip of an iceberg--with many stations understaffed and some closed for months.