JULIAN, Calif. -- The last volunteer fire department in San Diego County has agreed to begin talks about possibly disbanding and letting the county provide fire protection.
Last September, the Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District voted against consolidating with the San Diego County Fire Authority, preferring to try to fund its own operation and remain independent. Fast forward exactly five months to Tuesday, when the JCFPD voted to begin talks with the San Diego County Fire Authority about possibly disbanding their volunteer fire protection district.
What forced the change of heart? A ballot measure last fall to raise fire protection fees from area resident to $200 came up 34 signatures short of the 225 needed to pass. District officials say it’s because most of the people here who supported the initiative were disqualified from voting because they have post office boxes instead of mailing addresses. Regardless, without the increased fees, district officials aren't sure they can continue to provide adequate fire protection.
Even so, many area residents are concerned that county and Cal Fire firefighter won't respond quickly enough to fires and emergencies in the Julian-Cuyamaca area.
“When they do have personnel up here, it’s not people who live here. It’s firefighters from elsewhere in the county for the most part. We’ve now have had a handful of incidents where we’ve had medical calls and the Cal Fire firefighters couldn’t find the location,” said JCFPD retired volunteer firefighter William Everett. “The vote this morning was only to begin talking with the County Fire authority and to find out what it is their actually offering.”
A date for the first discussions with the county has yet to be set.