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By Miriam Raftery

February 21, 2024 (Santee) – The Santee Firefighters Association (SFA) is sponsoring the “Protect Santee” ballot initiative aimed at improving fire protection. The city’s fire department resources have not kept pace with growth in the community, a problem so severe that firefighters and emergency medical first responders are not able to meet national safety response time standards, multiple reports confirm.

“With just 17 on-call firefighters and two outdated fire stations, the fire department’s response times are often DOUBLE the crucial 4-minute National Fire Safety Response Standard, as AP Triton reported in its 2023 Santee Community Risk Assessment,” a press release from  the SFA states.

The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) was hired by the SFA to provide a report on the fire department’s capabilities. It found that most fire engines are staffed by  three firefighters, not the minimum of four required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Moreover, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that two firefighters cannot enter a burning building or other dangerous situation unless at least two more fighters are outside. So Santee’s three-person crews must wait until another crew arrives before they can enter a burning home, for example.


The study also found most area roads are not currently served  within the safe time frames outlined in the report.  “As such, it results in an increased risk of death or injury to firefighters and the citizens of Santee, as well as increased risk for considerable property loss of housing units and businesses throughout the City,” the report concludes.

The IAFF recommends that Santee increase staffing to have at least four firefighters on fire engines and fire trucks. It also recommends that the city add a new fire station near Cottonwood and Palm Glen Drive.

Friends of the Santee Firefighters Association have a solution unveiled this week:: Protect Santee. The new initiative proposes a small and temporary sales tax to provide the resources and firefighter personnel necessary to meet national safety standards.

The initiative will be a half cent sales tax for a period of 15 years. Revenues may only be used for the defined needs of the fire department which include infrastructure improvements and additional staffing needs, according to spokesman Chad Peace.

“With these changes, we will be able to protect all of Santee, something we struggle to do right now because of a lack of resources,” said Santee Fire Chief Justin Matsushita. “As the population and number of incidents rise, this problem is getting worse every day. We simply cannot provide Santee residents the emergency services they need without this initiative.”

The plan calls for first qualifying a ballot measure through a signature collection process of Santee voters. The Santee City Council would then be asked to place the Protect Santee measure on this year’s November ballot.

To help qualify the measure, the organizers of the Protect Santee initiative are hosting a fundraiser on Wednesday, February 21 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at a local diner, Jimmy’s of Santee, 9635 Mission Gorge Rd, Santee, CA 92071. Guests will have an opportunity to meet Santee firefighters, ask questions, enjoy drinks and dinner. You can RSVP on the campaign website at

Over the next 20 years, the Santee Fire Department will be tasked with responding to up to 30,000 additional incidents per year and to protect a population that could increase by as much as 50 percent. Yet, there are no additional resources allocated to the fire department, which is already severely under-funded.

Patrick Henry of the Santee Firefighters Association said: “All of us want what’s best for Santee, so how do we get there? We have a solution that will absolutely solve our emergency fire and medical service problems. This modest measure will not only help the city in the short-term, but it will ensure our fire department will keep pace with Santee’s growth. The residents of Santee deserve nothing less.”

The Protect Santee initiative is sponsored by the Santee Firefighters Association. More details about the campaign can be found at Additional materials, including reports, campaign assets, and presentations can be found HERE.







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