FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Date: December 1, 2004
Contact: Jennifer Stone (619) 531-4766


COUNTY PUSHING FOR FIRE AGENCY CONSOLIDATION IN UNINCORPORATED AREA

SAN DIEGO - The County Board of Supervisors is eager to move forward with efforts to consolidate the 35 individual fire agencies that currently provide fire protection and emergency medical services to the unincorporated areas of San Diego County.

At the request of Chairwoman Dianne Jacob and Supervisor Bill Horn, whose districts were hard-hit by the 2003 October fires, the Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to ask the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to begin the consolidation process. LAFCO is the agency responsible for coordinating changes to local government boundaries, including district consolidations.

"Voters have spoken. This region can no longer afford to have a fractured and inequitable fire protection system," said Chairwoman Jacob. "Residents want to move away from a system of inequities in funding, training and service levels."

Chairwoman Jacob and Supervisor Horn noted the overwhelming approval of Proposition C- an advisory measure placed on the Nov. 2 ballot to gauge public support for fire district consolidation in unincorporated communities- as proof-positive of a mandate for consolidation. More than 80 percent of voters supported the measure.

"Sharing costs, improving coordination, and merging activities like training and dispatch are all important ways to get better fire and emergency services our region deserves," said Supervisor Horn. "However, we also need to start thinking outside the box on new ways to deploy our fire fighting resources."

Jacob and Horn noted that funding remains the biggest challenge facing the consolidation effort.

LAFCO is conducting service reviews of fire departments throughout the region. An evaluation of unincorporated area fire agencies released last winter revealed gross disparities in funding and service levels. LAFCO anticipates completion of all reviews early next year.

The San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and the County Task Force on Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Services have expressed support for consolidation efforts.