JULIAN–Residents in the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District (JCFPD) have voted to join the San Diego County Fire Authority, bringing full-time professional firefighting and paramedic service to the popular East County tourist destinations. Julian was the last community in San Diego County to rely on volunteers for fire protection.
Since 2016, the County has assisted the JCFPD’s fire protection efforts by providing the district with a professionally staffed paramedic fire engine and $78,000 in annual subsidies. Last year the board voted to join the County Fire Authority, and the Fire Board’s decision was put before voters as Measure A in a special election. The measure passed in March 2019, and the election is set to be certified on April 4.
“Now that voters in Julian have spoken, it is my hope that the entire community will come together and rally around our common goal to bolster fire protection and other emergency services in the area,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob, who represents the area.
The service transition is expected to start soon and be completed well ahead of peak fire season.
“A fire department is an integral part of a local community, and we’re looking forward to being active members of Julian and Cuyamaca,” said County Fire Chief Tony Mecham. “We plan on continuing community programming and participating in neighborhood events, and are looking forward to working collaboratively on a smooth transition over the next few weeks.”
By joining the Fire Authority, the Julian and Cuyamaca communities will receive a three-person Advanced Life Support paramedic fire engine, staffed by CAL FIRE firefighters, allowing for life-saving medical response when the Julian ambulance is unavailable. The County will also pay for year-round staffing at Station #50 in Julian and CAL FIRE Station #51 in Cuyamaca at no cost to the community. The ballot measure also eliminates a $50 annual fee currently charged to area residents to pay off a loan incurred by the district to build the Julian fire station mortgage.
Another significant benefit of the merger is a potential decrease in homeowner’s insurance premiums. Communities are assigned an “ISO fire score” that calculates how well the local fire department is prepared and able to respond during an emergency. A lower score typically means lower insurance costs. The current ISO score for the Julian and Cuyamaca communities is 5/9, and is expected to reduce to 3/3X under the Fire Authority, after approval by ISO.
The County is also taking steps to allow current Julian reserves to continue volunteering exclusively in Julian and Cuyamaca alongside the career firefighters. From April 1 – 15, the County will accept applications for current JCFPD volunteers who meet background, medical, and training requirements. Julian and Cuyamaca will also be represented through a subcommittee to the County’s Fire Advisory Board.
The Fire Authority provides fire protection and emergency medical services to 1.5 million acres of the unincorporated county. Funding is provided by the County Board of Supervisors, and the Fire Authority contracts with CAL FIRE San Diego for a staff of professionally trained firefighters, who work alongside volunteer reserves.