San Diego County Fire Authority

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.

COUNTY BRACING FOR TOUGH FIRE SEASON, ANNOUNCES COORDINATED EFFORT TO MEET CHALLENGES

Firebreaks planned to protect Crest and Guatay

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

June 6, 2019 (San Diego) -- Not wanting a repeat of devastation suffered in the deadly 2003 and 2007 firestorms in San Diego County, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob announced on Tuesday a highly coordinated fire prevention effort in anticipation of a tough fire season.

While recent heavy rains have been good for replenishing water supplies, Jacob stated at a press conference, “From a fire standpoint, what has happened, our backcountry brush is thicker than ever. That means there is more fuel to feed a fire when it hits. And it will."

Jacob, whose District 2 includes fire-prone East County, added, "Since the series of deadly firestorms in 2003 and 2007, the county has worked side-by-side with CAL FIRE and spent more than half-a-billion dollars on firefighting improvements.” This has included “new stations, aircraft, and the establishment of a bigger and better firefighting force."

Audio: 

Audio: Press conference on San Diego County fire plans for 2019

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.

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.

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.

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:

AS VOTERS PREPARE TO CAST BALLOTS ON FUTURE OF JULIAN AREA'S FIRE DEPARTMENT, COUNTY ANNOUNCES FULL STAFFING OF RANCHITA FIRE STATION

By Miriam Raftery

February 21, 2019 (Ranchita) – For years, residents of Ranchita, a small town between Borrego Springs and Julian, have complained about prolonged periods of time when their fire station was unstaffed, leaving their community without rapid response to medical emergencies and fires. 

But now, just as area residents prepare to go to the polls in March to vote on a ballot initiative to determine the fate of the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Department, the County Fire Authority and Cal Fire have announced that they have upgraded staffing at the Ranchita Fire Station to permanent full-time staffing and are in the process of boosting paramedic services.  

JULIAN FIRE RECALL AND NO CONFIDENCE VOTE RAISE FIERY ISSUES IN MOUNTAIN TOWN

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 14, 2017 (Julian) — The Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District is the only volunteer fire department in our region that has chosen to remain independent.  The department’s board voted recently 4 to 1 vote against dissolving the district and joining the San Diego County Fire Authority (SDCFA), sparking heated debate.

THE LAST STAND: JULIAN-CUYAMACA IS ONLY VOLUNTEER FIRE DISTRICT THAT HAS NOT YET JOINED COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY

 

Story and photos by Julie Pendray

Photo:  County Fire Authority Chief Tony Mecham addressed about 100 people at a special meeting of Julian/Cuyamaca Fire Protection District on July 27.

 

August 9, 2017 (Julian) – Impassioned pleas to save the volunteer firefighting operation in this historic California gold mining town were rebutted by cold, hard, financial facts at a special public meeting of the Julian/Cuyamaca Fire Protection District.

JAMUL INDIAN VILLAGE TO DELIVER NEW FIRE TRUCKS TO COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY, IMPROVE REGIONAL FIRE SAFETY

 

East County News Service

March 18, 2017 (Jamul) -- Leading up to what could be a busy fire season in San Diego County, the Jamul Indian Village will officially hand over the keys and deliver a new $1 million ladder truck and $500,000 pumper truck to the San Diego County Fire Authority on Tuesday.

COUNTY, CAL FIRE LAUNCH PARAMEDIC SERVICE AT INTERMOUNTAIN FIRE STATION

 

July 2, 2015 (Ramona) – The San Diego County Fire Authority and CAL FIRE are making a major upgrade to fire and emergency medical services at the County’s Intermountain fire station. Starting July 1, new, around-the-clock paramedic service will be offered for the first time ever. The station is located east of Ramona along CA-78, a main route to Julian.

RURAL AND PINE VALLEY FIRE DISTRICTS JOIN COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY

County News Service

May 14, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – Shortly after the release of a grand jury report that commends the County for making significant improvements to rural firefighting by unifying a patchwork of independent agencies, the Board of Supervisors approved a series of administrative steps toward bringing two more rural fire districts under the umbrella of the County Fire Authority.

HOLIDAY AND WINTER HAZARDS

 

Source: County News Service

December 18, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) - The winter months can be more fire hazardous for most households, but the good news is that all of the hazards can be avoided if people are made aware of them and take precautions.

 “It can be a great time of year and you don’t want to see that turn tragic because someone wasn’t diligent,” says Kelly Gaffrey of the San Diego County Fire Authority.

FIRE CHIEFS AND REGIONAL OFFICIALS ASSESS RESPONSE TO MAY FIRES, PREPAREDNESS FOR FUTURE FIRES

 

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 16, 2014 (San Diego) – In the wake of the May wildfires that resulted in a countywide disaster declaration, Fire Chiefs and elected officials from across the region met on July 31 at the Count Operations Center to assess what went right--and what areas have room for improvement.

WHY ARE SO MANY FIRE STATIONS CLOSED—AND WHAT’S BEING DONE BY COUNTY TO BOOST STAFFING?

 

 

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. 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT REPORT: FEES PROPOSED TO COVER FULL COSTS OF COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY

 

Hot items also on the agendas in Boulevard, Lakeside and Lemon Grove this week

By Miriam Raftery

December 1, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--San Diego Supervisors meet on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 3 and 4 at 9 a.m. The hottest item is a public hearing Tuesday on a county proposal to levy fees to recover the actual cost of services provided by the San Diego County Fire Authority including fire plan reviews, inspections and other technical work.  In the past, such services have been provided to individuals and businesses without full cost recovery. 

The Agenda does not state how much the proposed fees would be or how much revenue the county expects to raise.  But coming on the heels of a statewide fire fee that is going up at year’s end,  the proposal is likely to fuel controversy among taxpayers. The item is first on Tuesday’s agenda.  

View December 3 agenda.  View December 4 agenda.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY RELEASES MASTER PLAN

 

By Nadin Abbott; photo by Jeff Holtz

 

August 18, 2013 (San Diego)—The San Diego County Fire Authority has released a Master Strategic Plan for the next five years. The plan became effective on July 1, 2013 and will remain such until June 30, 2018. You can read the plan here: http://bosagenda.sdcounty.ca.gov/agendadocs/doc?id=09010e9680174b28.

THE CHAPARRAL REBELLION: BACKCOUNTRY FIRE AGENCIES FIGHTING TO MAINTAIN INDEPENDENCE FROM COUNTY

By David Ross

Part I of several parts

On June 11, I became part of the story of the Chaparral Rebellion when my house on Palomar Mountain partially burned (photo, left).

In the 1980s a group of Western states fought federal intrusion in states rights called themselves the Sagebrush Rebellion. In San Diego County today a group of backcountry fire agencies are fighting to retain their autonomy from the two-headed coin that is the San Diego County Fire Authority and Cal Fire.

You might call this movement the Chaparral Rebellion.

DON'T DELAY PAST MAY: IT'S TIME TO PREPARE FOR WILDFIRES

 

Residents Urged to Clear Defensible Space, Plan for Family Readiness

May 22, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – California has already seen 1,569 wildfires this year, about 500 more fires compared to the same period last year and 85 percent more fires than in an average year. With the long, hot and dangerous summer a real possibility, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob and public safety officials today urged residents to protect their homes against wildfires by creating a 100-foot buffer zone.

“Now is the time to prepare for what is shaping up as a tougher-than-usual fire season,” said Supervisor Jacob. “The firestorms of 2003 and 2007 taught us that homes with defensible space are far more likely to survive than homes without it.”

FROM THE CHIEF'S CORNER: WHAT TO DO WHEN A WILDLAND FIRE THREATENS

 

 

May 3, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – We are currently under severe fire conditions.  Homeowners are advised to do the following if there are reports of wildland fires:

Listen to local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information. Follow instructions of local officials regarding the safest escape route. (It may be different than you expect; wildland fires can change direction and speed up suddenly.)

• If you have one, turn on your FRS Radio and set it to your neighborhood’s channel and code. Check in, and continue to monitor for new information. Channel ______ Code _______

If you believe the fire is too close to your location, evacuate immediately. (The fire may be moving too fast for officials to issue evacuation notifications.) Choose a route away from the fire and other potential fire hazards.

JULIAN-CUYAMACA FIRE DISTRICT RESISTS TURNING OVER CONTROL TO COUNTY

By Nadin Abbott; photos by Tom Abbott

March 10, 2013 (Julian)—Why is the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District in financial trouble—and why would the District refuse to join the County Fire Authority? Is there a way for the cash-strapped District to retain its independence and assure a swift response time for residents?

These are important questions. The answers reveal a distrust shared by other rural fire departments that have reported longer response times and other concerns after giving up volunteer firefighters to join the County system.  

TARGET SHOOTING CAUSED 10 FIRES THIS YEAR; CAL FIRE ISSUES SAFETY GUIDELINES

August 15, 2011 (El Cajon)—Cal Fire/San Diego County Fire Authority has experienced a major increase of fires caused by recreational shooting across the County. To date, CAL FIRE/San Diego has had 10 fires caused by target shooting this year, up from only two the prior year.

 

SUPERVISORS TO DECIDE TUESDAY WHETHER TO MERGE 5 FIRE AGENCIES


Hearing Tuesday, January 25 at 9:30 a.m.

January 24, 2011 (San Diego) -- The County Board of Supervisors will decide tomorrow whether to merge five fire agencies into the San Diego County Fire Authority. A hearing is set for Tuesday, January 25, at 9:30 in the Board Chamber at the County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Highway in downtown San Diego.

 

The County Fire Authority was created in 2008 when the County united a handful of rural fire agencies with a goal of creating a stronger, more efficient agency that will  eventually serve over half of the geographic area in our region, including unincorporated areas throughout San Diego's East County, where the devastating wildfires in 2003 and 2007 began.

FIRES MAR HOLIDAY SEASON FOR FAMILIES IN DESCANSO, LAKESIDE, VALLEY CENTER & LA MESA

December 14, 2009 (San Diego’s East County) – Residential fires have caused major damage to homes in Descanso, Lakeside, Valley Center and La Mesa this month. The latest blaze occurred this morning at 4:17 a.m. in a condominium complex at 9320 Earl Street #25 in La Mesa, where fire crews arrived in less than five minutes and ran hose lines inside through thick, dark smoke down to the floor. Firefighters used a thermal imaging camera to locate the fire in the kitchen.