Public Safety

Upgraded Paramedic Services Extended to More Rural Communities

Firefighter Paramedic checking advanced lifesaving equipment next to a fire truck.
Firefighter Paramedic Brenton Rowell from the Mt. Laguna County Fire Station is completing his morning checks of the Advanced Life Support gear.

A person suffering cardiac arrest or going into anaphylactic shock will receive immediate treatment from responding firefighter paramedics who were recently added to existing fire engine service in five communities.

“This completes County Fire’s upgrade from basic to advanced life support services in our full-time County fire stations in rural communities,” said Tony Mecham, County Fire chief and CAL FIRE Unit Chief. “Firefighter paramedics will now be responding to calls and can administer lifesaving medications as needed.”

The addition of 24-hour paramedic engine services to Harbison Canyon, Mount Laguna, Sunshine Summit, Shelter Valley and Palomar Mountain brings this capability to 15 fire stations under the County Fire umbrella. Other communities that have welcomed similar new service since early 2014 include Julian, Jacumba, Descanso, Otay, Ocotillo Wells, Jamul, Lake Morena, Intermountain, Deerhorn Valley, and Pine Valley.

The advanced life support service, the highest level of pre-hospital care, is part of a comprehensive boost to the overall emergency medical services and fire coverage to residents in the County’s rural areas. Previously, all paramedic support was performed by private ambulance service, which in some cases may have been stationed 30 minutes away.

Firefighter Paramedic Ruben Vazquez of the Sunshine Summit County Fire Station takes inventory of his medications box.
Firefighter Paramedic Ruben Vazquez of the Sunshine Summit County Fire Station takes inventory of his medications box.

Part of the need for the improvement is due to a large jump in population in rural communities, which includes seasonal visitors to those communities.

“This provides a better level of service for all the travelers not just the residents,” said Herman Reddick, County Fire group program manager.

The County Fire stations hired new firefighter paramedics and purchased cardiac monitors, defibrillators and lifesaving medications such as those used for people who are having an acute allergic reaction or who are in cardiac arrest. Firefighter paramedics can also put in breathing tubes and administer pain medications to injured patients, said County Fire Capt. Jared Andrade.

Additionally, patients will be able to receive a sophisticated level of emergency medical services including a variety of medications, intravenous therapy, breathing treatments, and advanced cardiac procedures.

The firefighter paramedics will be doing assessment and treatment, but transport to hospitals will still be done by private ambulance companies, Andrade said.

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact