Public Safety

A Boon to the Backcountry County Fire Fleet

A welcome sight will soon be rolling out to some outlying areas of the County.

Five additional fire vehicles will be hitting the road for the backcountry as part of the San Diego County Fire Authority and CAL FIRE’s continuing effort to quickly respond to wildfires and other emergencies.

Two new water tenders and three light fire engines called patrols will go to fire stations in some of the locations where the devastating 2003 and 2007 wildfires took place – De Luz, Potrero, Shelter Valley and Sunshine Summit.

The County’s general fund paid for one patrol. Funds for the other four vehicles came through the County’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

The department administers Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to qualifying projects in the region on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year represents the 40th year of the CDBG Program. The County uses these funds for affordable housing in low- to moderate-income areas and community improvements such as ADA ramps, sidewalks and upgrades to playgrounds and community centers. 

CDBG funds can also be used for firefighting equipment in low- to moderate-income areas.

“Since 2005, CDBG funds have been used to buy 14 engines and 13 water tenders for backcountry fire stations for a total of 27 vehicles,” said County Housing and Community Development Director Todd Henderson. “This fiscal year, $983,000 was set aside for fire vehicles for the County Fire Authority.”

Last year, rather than fire vehicles, CDBG funding was used to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus, radios and other miscellaneous fire engine and emergency equipment for stations in the outlying areas.    

“CDBG funds are going a long way toward helping the San Diego County Fire Authority reach its goal to extend year-round, round-the-clock service to 1.5 million acres of the unincorporated county,” said County Fire Program Manager Herman Reddick. “Communities that have historically been devastated by wildfires in the past need these new specialized fire vehicles. This funding allows us to add fire equipment and apparatus to the areas that need it the most.”

The County Fire Authority and CAL FIRE work together under a cooperative agreement to provide a regional fire protection system for unincorporated areas of the County. Fire Chief Tony Mecham is both the County Fire Chief and Unit Chief for CAL FIRE.

“The introduction of the patrol vehicles is an exciting and much needed operational development,” said CAL FIRE/San Diego County Fire Authority Deputy Chief Kevin Lawson.

The patrols are smaller and lighter vehicles. They carry 200 gallons of water, pump, hose, and basic life support equipment. County volunteers called reserves can drive and operate the vehicles with a regular Class C driver’s license.

“The patrol is a quick attack piece of apparatus that allows County reserves or career firefighters to immediately respond to an incident and provide basic life support services, quickly knock down vehicle fires or respond to structure fires,” said Lawson. “County Fire Reserves can be the first to respond and darken down the fire or perform basic life support measures until additional personnel and career- staffed units arrive.”

The five new vehicles are expected to be in place at their respective fire stations before the end of the month.

 

Tracy DeFore is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact