SAN DIEGO -- Supporters of the region's last volunteer fire department in the mountain community of Julian, who have locked themselves inside the fire station the past two weeks, agreed Thursday to allow the county daily access to inspect the station and equipment.
The protesters first organized the sit-in in opposition to a voter-approved decision to dissolve the department.
Attorneys for San Diego County were prepared to come into court Thursday and ask a judge to force the volunteer firefighters and their supporters out of Station 56, but per the agreement, up to three members of the County Fire Authority will inspect the property and submit regular reports on the condition of the equipment and structure.
County attorneys allege that members of the Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District are unlawfully occupying the station and have threatened to vandalize the building, including making threats "to pour cement down the toilets and drains if they lose in court thereby rendering the station uninhabitable."
Cory Briggs, an attorney representing the Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District, said the vandalism claims are "entirely unfounded."
The JCFPD supporters are protesting the recent confirmation of local election results that saw around 54 percent of voters approve the handover of firefighting duties to the county.
On April 8, the election results confirming the transition to the county were certified by a unanimous vote of the county's Local Agency Formation Commission. That same day, a county transition team arrived at the volunteer fire station but was kept out by around 30 protesters who locked themselves inside the building.
The volunteer firefighters contend that the dissolution of the fire department was brought about illegally, with some of the fire district's former board members allegedly agreeing to dissolve the department in secret, violating the Brown Act. The fire district's board voted to dissolve the department in 2018, but that vote was protested by local citizens, triggering the special mail-in election.
The JCFPD, whose new board of directors opposes dissolution, alleges that the election results are "null and void," due to the alleged Brown Act violations.
Future court hearings will cover a separate suit regarding whether the Brown Act was violated and what that means for the dissolution of the fire district.
Briggs further claims that per the language of the fire station's deed, the property transfers to a Native American Land Trust, the Kumeyaay Diegueno Land Conservancy, upon the fire district's dissolution.
Meanwhile, county fire personnel are responding to calls for service in the area. Some Julian residents have complained that county fire crews have gotten lost trying to respond to fire and medical calls in the rural community in the past.