June 15, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) -- San Diego County Fire can now dispatch up to four new quick-attack vehicles to assist CAL FIRE operations when a brush fire breaks out in a hard-to-reach part of the backcountry.
The vehicles, known as “patrols” are smaller and faster than a larger engine, but are equipped with all the same basic lifesaving equipment. They can hold up to 200 gallons of water and 10 gallons of gel or foam and are assigned to the County Fire stations in Jacumba, Palomar Mountain, De Luz and Shelter Valley. The stations include areas affected by the destructive 2003 and 2007 wildfires.
While the vehicles were primarily built for wildfire response, they can also be used for everyday calls like medical aid, traffic collisions and structure fires, and that is how they will mostly be used, said County Fire Deputy Chief Kevin Lawson.
The patrol vehicles will be frontline, “first-roll” response units at our volunteer or reserve stations and will supplement the current County Fire fleet, said CAL FIRE San Diego Unit and County Fire Chief Tony Mecham.
“For the rural backcountry, they are more suitable than a fire engine,” said Mecham. “They are simple to operate, very quick and maneuverable and allow our reserves to get to the scene quickly. They are also used for mop-up, allowing fully staffed engines to be put back in service quickly.”
This type of patrol vehicle is generally new to County Fire’s fleet. Five of them were purchased last year and were used heavily, particularly when County Fire and CAL FIRE were assisting other counties as part of a mutual aid strike team.
The patrols have two people on them at a time and firefighters are required to take additional training on the operation of these vehicles.
Each patrol, fully equipped, costs nearly $260,000. Two of the new vehicles are funded by Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) through the County’s Department of Housing and Community Development and two were paid for with the County’s General Fund.
The department administers CDBG funds to qualifying projects including firefighting equipment in low- to moderate-income areas in the region on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition to the two patrol vehicles this year, the CDBG funds have been used to buy 16 engines, 13 water tenders, self-contained breathing apparatus, radios and other miscellaneous fire engine and emergency equipment for stations in the outlying areas since 2005. The County also uses these funds for affordable housing in low- to moderate-income areas and community improvements such as ADA ramps, sidewalks and upgrades to playgrounds and community centers.
“Strengthening our regional fire defense is a critical component of healthy, safe and thriving communities, and one the County can be proud to stand behind,” said County Housing and Community Development Director Todd Henderson.