Supervisors to consolidate East County fire agencies - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Supervisors to consolidate East County fire agencies

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to merge five rural fire agencies into the San Diego County Fire Authority, the second step in a three-part plan meant to improve fire and emergency medical services.

The vote dissolves the boundaries of county service areas in Mount Laguna, Palomar Mountain, Boulevard, Campo and San Pasqual and adds each area to the zone covered by the county's fire agency -- a reorganization that will add an additional 58,000 acres to its  coverage area.

The board also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Lakeside Fire Protection District that will enable Lakeside and the county's fire agency to share resources for fire plan checks and inspections, and weed abatement programs.

The county's fire authority was created in 2008 with the consolidation of a group of rural fire agencies covering about 942,000 acres.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who has led the consolidation effort, called Tuesday's vote another step in a "a phenomenal success story."

"We remember the dark days of the 2003 firestorms, and it's amazing how much progress we've made in a relatively short amount of time," she said. "The fractures were deep and wide, and communication and coordination were deeply lacking."

Jacob said the consolidation would allow for faster response times to medical emergencies and fires.

"We're making giant strides toward our goal of a regional authority," she said. "Eventually the county fire agency will cover 1.5 million acres as a unified agency."

Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said the consolidation plan is a model for other governments.

"What we're doing here is expanding, finding a lot more of what works that we can afford," she said. "We're showing leadership other agencies are looking (toward) to reduce costs but still provide services."

The county had its own fire agency years ago, and restoring it has been like "putting Humpty Dumpty back together again," Supervisor Greg Cox said.

It has taken five years to get to this point.

The next steps in the consolidation process will be to include the San Diego Rural Fire Protection District, which covers 720 square miles in areas like Harbison Canyon, Jamul and Lake Morena, and the Pine Valley Fire Protection District.

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