JCFPD

MERCY AMBULANCE SKIDS OFF ROAD, LEAVING JULIAN WITHOUT MEDICAL RESPONSE FOR HOURS AS TOURISTS AND RESIDENTS EXPERIENCE “SNOWMAGEDDON”



Accident occurs soon after County Fire Authority/Cal Fire hauled away four-wheel-drive ambulances and fire engines formerly run by Julian’s volunteer fire department

County, Cal Fire and Mercy Medical Transportation fail to answer questions or provide solutions to prevent future fiascos

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

December 6, 2019 (Julian) -- As San Diegans rushed up to the mountain community of Julian last Saturday to play in the snow, a Mercy Medical Transportation, Inc. two-wheel drive ambulance under contract to the San Diego County Fire Authority and Cal Fire missed a curve on State Highway 78, landed off the side of the road and got stuck in snow for hours.

The incident occurred at 8:15 a.m. near Jess Martin Park. According to sources familiar with the situation, the two-man crew had been dispatched all the way from Valley Center, since Julian no longer has a locally stationed ambulance. The crew was reportedly unhurt and had been on the way to Julian Fire Station No. 56. It wasn’t until around 1 p.m. that a tow truck arrived to extricate the ambulance. It is unclear why neither Mercy or Cal Fire could provide a winch to free the vehicle sooner.


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AFTER RULING BY JUDGE, COUNTY REMOVES ALL EQUIPMENT FROM JULIAN FIRE STATION 56, INCLUDING FIRE ENGINES, AMBULANCE AND WATER TENDER

Safety concerns raised; court ruling by Judge Randa Trapp could be death knell to Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

November 20, 2019 (Julian) -- With a stroke of a gavel, San Diego Superior Court Judge Randa Trapp on Friday morning dashed hopes of volunteers from the former Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District that the district will be resurrected anytime soon.

Judge Trapp denied the motion filed by JCFPD’s attorney Cory Briggs last April 10, which sought to invalidate the dissolution of the volunteer fire and medical protection district by the San Diego Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO). Briggs filed the motion to appeal the afternoon after LAFCO’s vote.

Within hours of Trapp’s decision Friday, despite a new appeal of Friday's judgement filed by Briggs, the County Fire Authority operated by CALFIRE raided Julian Fire Station 56, towing away or hauling off all remaining firefighting equipment of the JCFPD including fire engines and ambulances. A broker has reportedly indicated that at least some of the equipment is being put up for sale, instead of being either held for the JCFPD in case of a win on appeal, or turned over to the CFA/CALFIRE to utilize to protect Julian.

Briggs called the action a “raid.”  Some Julian residents cried, while others voiced anger.

The action leaves Julian entirely dependent upon the CFA/CAL FIRE for protection, despite grave concerns raised by many residents over serious gaps in equipment and coverage since the JCFPD was dissolved.


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BREAKING NEWS: CALFIRE/COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO RETAKES REMAINING JULIAN FIRE STATION; DEFIES STAY TRIGGERED BY APPEAL

San Diego County fails to pay JCFPD paramedics as agreed in earlier court judgment

Update: Sheriff's office declines to comment on eviction of the JCFPD

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

June 3, 2019 (Julian) -- CAL FIRE, under the authority of the San Diego County Fire Authority, retook the remaining Julian fire station Sunday afternoon. The station  has been held by volunteers Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District (JCFPD) with court approval after the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) dissolved the JCFPD, pending the outcome of litigation by those trying to save the county's last volunteer firefighting district.

The move by CAL FIRE and the Sheriff’s Department failure to halt the takeover was in defiance of an appeal filed to the San Diego Superior Appellate Court Division immediately after Superior Court Judge Randa Trapp on Friday ordered members of the JCFPD to vacate Fire Station No. 56 in her Friday ruling.  The appeal triggers an automatic stay, the County’s director of communications acknowledged Friday, prior to the forced takeover this weekend. Judge Trapp on Friday also affirmed that no eviction should occur until an appeal could be heard, according to a witness present in the courtroom. ECM is working to obtain videotape of the judge’s statement.


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COUNTY AGREES TO COMPROMISE AFTER FILING FOR COURT ORDER TO FORCE VOLUNTEERS OUT OF JULIAN FIRE STATION

Despite dissolution put in force by LAFCO and County authorities, volunteers and supporters can stay in station at least 30 days, Judge Trapp rules

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

April 26, 2019 (San Diego) -- The County of San Diego and Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) went into Superior Court Judge Randa Trapp’s courtroom Thursday seeking an order to evict supporters of the dissolved Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District (JCFPD).

Instead, the Judge pushed both sides to hammer out a compromise agreement that  allows former volunteer firefighters and their supporters to remain in station 57 for at least 30 days while the legal issues work their way through the court system. 

Calls will be responded to by the County Fire Authority/Cal Fire and the County will have a right to inspect the station daily, with specifications.


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COUNTY SAYS JULIAN-CUYAMACA FIREFIGHTERS CAN SERVE AS VOLUNTEERS ALONGSIDE CAL-FIRE IF THEY SIGN UP BY APRIL 15: BUT NOBODY TOLD JULIAN’S FIRE CHIEF

 

Update April 4, 2019 -- Alex Bell, public information officer for San Diego, has clarified that on March 29, the same day our story below ran, a letter was sent to JFCPD Chief Van Bibber and the JCFPD board president via email and certified mail notifying him of volunteer opportunities. In addition a flyer was provided to them for distribution to their volunteers. "Since Monday, 8 Julian firefighters have applied to the County Fire Authority program," Bell told ECM.

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 29, 2019 (Julian) – Measure A, the ballot initiative to abolish the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District (JCFPD) and put the San Diego County Fire Authority/CAL FIRE in charge of emergency services, appears to have passed by a slim 114 vote margin, 54% to 46%, according to the Registrar of Voters though the results won’t be certified until April 4.

The County issued a press release today headlined “Julian joins the County Fire Authority.”  The County states this will bring “full-time professional firefighting and paramedic service to the popular East County tourist destinations.”

“Now that voters in Julian have spoken, it is my hope that the entire community will come together and rally around our common goal to bolster fire protection and other emergency services in the area,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob, who represents the area. The JCFPD is San Diego County's last all-volunteer firefighting department.

But now the County appears to have offered an olive branch to the 60 volunteers in the JCFPD with an opportunity to continue to serve-yet the County failed to inform the JCFPD's Chief or others about that opportunity and a looming deadline.


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JULIAN VOTES TO ABOLISH THE JULIAN CUYAMACA FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Miriam Raftery, Editor, contributed to this report

Update March 27, 2019: The margin has narrowed slightly but Measure A still leads by 114 votes and a 7.96% margin: yes 53.98%, no 46.02%

March 19, 2019 (Julian) – The County’s last all-volunteer fire department may soon be history. With 1,294 ballots counted tonight, Measure A is passing with 55.56%, the Registrar of Voters reports.

The measure would affirm a decision made last September by the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to abolish the 35-year-old Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District. Fire and ambulance services would be shifted entirely to the County Fire Authority, under the direction of Cal-Fire.

The Registrar’s office will continue to accept ballots until Friday, if postmarked by today. It is unclear how many ballots mailed out have not yet been returned, or whether there could be enough to make up the 145-vote gap (719 to 575).

Cal-Fire firefighters’ union local #2881 posted on Facebook tonight, “Thank you to the Citizens of Julian and Cuyamaca for the opportunity to serve them.” (photo, left)

For backers of the JCFPD who have fought hard to keep their volunteer firefighters, however, the outcome sparked strong emotions.


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RESPONSE TO EDITORIAL ON MEASURE A FROM CAL-FIRE FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2881 VICE-PRESIDENT PATRICK WALKER

By William T. Everett, Board Member, Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District

March 14, 2019 (Julian) -- Union Vice-President Patrick Walker believes that the Julian Cuyamaca "volunteer fire station is inefficient and unable to provide adequate fire and life safety services in comparison to full time." He goes on to tout his experience and career as the reason he is credible. Yet, numerous Fire Chiefs and career firefighters throughout California, with far more experience than Walker, strongly disagree with his conclusion. What is the difference between Walker and the others? It is simple. Walker works for the Cal-Fire union and his primary responsibility is to promote the union and help create more union jobs. 

It appears that Walker's primary argument in favor of dissolving the Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District is his claim that full-time firefighters are better for the community than part-time (i.e., volunteers). What Mr. Walker either doesn't know or doesn't want the public to know is that the Julian fire station is now staffed full-time with 60  firefighters (volunteers) that are as highly trained and qualified as any "professional" firefighters in the United States.


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READER’S EDITORIAL: MEASURE A AND THE FUTURE OF FIRE SERVICES IN JULIAN AND CUYAMACA

By Patrick Walker, Vice President, CAL FIRE Firefighters Local #2881 – San Diego District

"It is my belief that the volunteer only fire station is inefficient and unable to provide adequate fire and life safety services in comparison to full time."

March 12, 2019 (Julian-Cuyamaca) -- I want to start by clarifying my comments within this editorial are not representative of CAL FIRE, but of my position as the 10th District Vice President within CAL FIRE Firefighters Local #2881, the labor organization that represents the Professional Firefighters of CAL FIRE in San Diego County. 

I will begin with information about my Fire Department and Labor background, as I believe in absolute transparency.  At 16 years old I began as a Fire Explorer with the San Pasqual Fire Department as well as the Ramona Fire Department.  I graduated High School in Ramona, went into the US Army and upon return became a firefighter with CAL FIRE in 1997.  I have worked in the counties of:  San Diego, Riverside, Santa Clara, Amador and El Dorado in my 20-year employment with CAL FIRE.  I have held the ranks for Volunteer Firefighter, Volunteer Fire Engine Operator, Volunteer Fire Captain, and with CAL FIRE I have worked as Firefighter I, Firefighter II, Engineer, Fire Captain and currently hold the rank of Battalion Chief working in South San Diego County.  I am married with children and reside in the City of San Diego.


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CAL FIRE SAYS SNOWED-IN FIRE ENGINE POST WAS A HOAX



Update Feb. 22, 2019 10:26 a.m.  This morning the Julian Times posted a photo on its Facebook page showing Cal Fire/CFA engines purportedly stuck in snow. Scroll down for the image. 

In addition, Times of San Diego forwarded this aerial video provided by a Julian resident showing Cal Fire engines in heavy snow at the station this morning:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1C6U3pTQIY3W7UJd2Jd6EC-wHghTwzEqp/view?fbclid=IwAR2CcW9R9b5rPvicADyqPXU_XtYJ4DhBe87yicG5lihg12g-g7VLkoMti44

 



By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Rachel Goddard,, JCFPD volunteers clear a tree blocking a snowy road.

February 22, 2019 (Julian) -- With up to two feet of snow blanketing the mountains of East County last night, a post circulating on social media and sent to ECM last night contained a screenshot that appeared to be a screen shot from a County Fire Authority social media page. The post stated that  its Cal Fire Station 51 in Julian and a fire engine "is unable to respond to calls and is out of service due to the growing snow conditions." (See screenshot below.)

But this morning, Cal Fire Deputy Chief Nick Schuler told ECM that the image and its message was "false" and not an official Cal Fire page. He said Cal Fire engines were in operation responding to calls at the time. Schuler blamed advocates of a contentious ballot initiative to keep the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District independent for circulating what he states was a hoax. ECM has requested call logs for the evening from both agencies.

Volunteer firefighters with the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District sent ECM a photo last night demonstrating a can-do spirit as they continued to serve their community during the emergency conditions, responding to calls for medical assistance and removing a downed tree. (Photo, left, courtey of the JCFPD.)

JCFPD Chief Mike Van Bibber told ECM today that he is confident the post did not originate with his firefighters. He added that one of his team owns a backhoe that was used to keep the JCFPD station clear for engines' access.

After we received Schuler's statement, this morning the Julian Times posted this photo on their Facebook page which appears to show two CFA engines temporarily blocked in by snow:


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JULIAN FIREFIGHTERS HOST SPAGHETTI DINNER FOR COMMUNITY, COLLECT FOOD DONATIONS FOR THE HUNGRY

“This is your house.” -- Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Mike Van Bibber

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Editor Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report

January 24, 2019 (Julian) –“We’re rising from the ashes and we will emerge like the Phoenix, even better than before we were,” Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Mike Van Bibber told a crowd of some 75 citizens at a spaghetti dinner held Sunday in the main stationhouse on Highway79.

The mood was buoyant, despite storm clouds still looming over the district. A special election to save the county’s last volunteer fire department is slated for March, after residents gathered enough signatures to put the decision on the ballot and temporarily block takeover by the County Fire Department run by Cal-Fire.


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MEASURE TO KEEP JULIAN-CUYAMACA FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT INDEPENDENT QUALIFIES FOR FUTURE BALLOT, BUT FIRE FEE HIKE FAILS

By Miriam Raftery

November 9, 2018 (Julian) – This week brought good news and bad news for Julian residents fighting to halt a county takeover of the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District and save the county’s last all-volunteer fire department.

A citizens’ protest petition seeking to reverse the vote by the Local Agency Formation Agency (LAFCO) to dissolve the fire district obtained enough signatures to qualify for a future ballot, the Registrar of Voters informed advocates this week.  That’s a tough hurdle, since the requirement is more than 50% of property owners in the district. 

“We did it! We are the only ones in the history of LAFCO to ever get this far!” Lori Foss, a supporter of the petition and survivor of the Cedar and Witch fires, stated in an email to East County Magazine on Election Day.


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READER’S EDITORIAL: UNMASKING CAL FIRE -- ILLUMINATING THE SAN DIEGO COUNTY/CAL FIRE PLAN FOR JCFPD

 

By Patricia Landis, former board member, Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District

October 7, 2017 (Julian) -- I am a retired psychologist and not a journalist or investigative reporter. As a psychologist, my job was to listen. Maybe that is why so many individuals come and tell me “what’s going on.” I have become a repository of information about our fire department and I believe I need to share what I am hearing because it affects the lives of all of us living in the Julian-Cuyamaca fire district.


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