06/25/08

COUNTY'S FIRE PROTECTION STRENGTHENED

Landmark Decision by Board of Supervisors

SAN DIEGO – San Diego County Supervisors today unanimously approved a plan to merge fire departments covering more than 1.5 million acres of unincorporated land in North and East San Diego County. This follows the catastrophic 2007 wildfires, which devastated large portions of the backcountry and cities and communities.

Speaking in support of the three-step reorganization plan, Fifth District Supervisor Bill Horn said, “This is a historical moment for the people of San Diego County. It strengthens our region’s fire protection system.”

The first phase of the plan, set to begin within the next month, will merge volunteer fire companies not associated with a County Service Area (CSA), covering 942,000 acres, almost 60% of targeted zones.

The hybrid plan came as a result of the Board of Supervisors direction to County staff. Among those were recommendations from Supervisor Horn to establish a County Fire Warden, cover worker’s compensation and insurance costs for volunteers, assess vegetation in the unincorporated area, and secure grant funding for additional equipment are included in the plan.

“I commend my fellow Supervisors, Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard, and County and fire officials for a job well done,” said Horn. “The top priorities for this Board are public safety and protecting our budget. This plan speaks to both commitments.”

There are two remaining phases with four CSA’s and rural fire departments in East County, set to merge with the newly boosted CSA by July of 2012.

“The public needs to know this is not a silver bullet, but it will make a tremendous difference,” Horn said. “We also need to work on the prevention side of the wildfire problem by clearing more brush and removing dead, dying, and diseased trees in areas where the backcountry meets our cities. I think this plan is real progress that our County residents can be proud of.”

Contact: John Culea – 619 531-4709 Cell: 619 548-1765