Drive 60 miles east of San Diego out Interstate 8 and you’ll reach Boulevard, a sparsely populated rural community of about 1,750 people. Your view will encompass manzanita trees and granite boulders, but no shopping malls or gleaming high rises. In fact, you won’t see a lot of newer buildings at all, and you won’t be surprised to learn the town’s fire station is a converted court office.
That last part won’t be true for long though. On Thursday, County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob joined County officials and community members to break ground on a new $3.5 million fire station, which will serve a 78-square-mile area.
“This is not only a big step for our community, it’s an important step for the broader region,” said Chairwoman Jacob. “This project is the latest demonstration of the County’s commitment to beefing up fire protection and emergency medical response in our rural areas.”
The new 7,866 square-foot station on Ribbonwood Road will feature modern sleeping quarters, a training room, space for up to six emergency vehicles and environment-friendly elements such as solar power.
It will be the 16th rural fire station building project the County has completed since the Board of Supervisors formed the County Fire Authority in 2008.
Before the Fire Authority, many rural communities were served by part-time volunteers who responded from work or home. One of the improvements under the Fire Authority is to make sure communities are covered by firefighters around the clock, all year round.
But many of the old volunteer fire company stations weren’t designed for people to live or sleep there. So the County’s been busy renovating and building to make the fire stations appropriate for 24-hour shifts.
The new Boulevard station will be constructed to modern standards, with resource-saving features that include low water usage, cool roof technology, and a 20-kilovolt solar array to power the station.
When finished, it will be spacious enough to accommodate two fire companies.
The community of Boulevard is also served by the CAL FIRE station White Star, one of nine CAL FIRE stations the County funds to remain open in the winter to help make sure rural communities have adequate year-round emergency response.
But the state station is coming to the end of its life. After the new Boulevard Station opens, County volunteer firefighters and CAL FIRE firefighters may share the new facility.
The plan would save public funds by saving the cost of constructing and operating two stations to cover the same area.
Under the Fire Authority, the County has a close relationship with CAL FIRE, so locating County volunteers and state firefighters together is a natural fit.
The CAL FIRE San Diego Unit Chief is also the County Fire Authority’s chief. County volunteers receive the same basic training as CAL FIRE career firefighters, and under the Fire Authority, backcountry firefighters are dispatched and overseen by CAL FIRE.
That means CAL FIRE dispatches the closest resource to an emergency, and whether it’s a volunteer or CAL FIRE crew, the public gets a professional, timely response.