Protecting brush fire danger zones in the county - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Protecting brush fire danger zones in the county

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department has deployed an engine and four firefighters to a county-operated station in the San Pasqual Valley to improve service and response times in the outlying area, city and county officials announced Wednesday.

The crew is stationed at the County Fire Authority's San Pasqual Fire Station 93 -- east of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on San Pasqual Valley Road - - daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at no cost to the city.

The arrangement started with the beginning of the new fiscal year July 1 and is scheduled to last through at least October, and possibly as late as December.

"With wildfires failing to respect city boundaries, regional collaboration is our best public safety tool," said Ron Roberts, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.

A large portion of the valley, east of Escondido, is actually city of San Diego land, stretching east along state Route 78 well past the Safari Park.

Since the closest city fire station is in Rancho Bernardo, many calls for service from the area force the SDFRD to rely on mutual-aid agreements with nearby fire agencies that can respond faster, according to city officials.

"Every second counts in an emergency," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at a news conference. "By saving minutes of travel time, we're able to more effectively save lives and to protect homes."

The average response time to nine calls in July was nine minutes and 34 seconds -- a 31 percent reduction compared to July 2014 and an 18 percent reduction compared to July 2015, the mayor's office reported.

Firefighters based in Rancho Bernardo don't have to make as many runs into the San Pasqual Valley now, so are able to better serve their own neighborhood, according to the SDFRD. They only had to respond into the area once in July, compared to 14 times in the same period last year.

"As the population and traffic in the San Pasqual Valley increases, we need our level of service to keep pace," SDFRD Chief Brian Fennessy said. "Add to that the tall grass this year, plus the drought, and we needed to provide better protection for our residents there. This is a good first step toward accomplishing that."

In 2007, the Witch fire burned into the San Pasqual Valley and combined with a smaller blaze to create a firestorm that killed two people, injured 40 firefighters, destroyed 1,650 structures and blackened nearly 198,000 acres.

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