Over 90 percent of San Diego County residents live along the coast and in our inland valleys, an area west of an imaginary line south from Fallbrook to Escondido to Lakeside to El Cajon to Chula Vista and to the border. This is the urbanized portion of our county, served by paid career fire departments.
The remainder of our county, east of this imaginary line is the “backyard” for those living in the urbanized areas of the County. The backyard is where you go to have a good time, whether it is playing in the mountain snow in the winter or hiking there in the summer, or relaxing in the desert sun or riding around in a dune buggy. The “backyard” is also an area you travel through to get to a destination outside of our county.
You expect the same level of fire and medical services in your “backyard” when you call 9-1-1 as you have at your home or place of business in the urban areas. However, there are some differences. First, is the issue of distances. With a sparser population, fire stations are much further apart than in the cities, thus response times are longer than you are used to at home.
Second, with the lower population density and far fewer homes and businesses, there is not the tax base to support having paid career fire stations. Your “backyard” is served by 30 fire stations with volunteer firefighters responsible for about 60% of the County, see adjacent map with your “backyard” in green. These 30 fire stations respond to all fire and medical emergencies. Cal Fire and the US Forest Service also have fire stations in your “backyard” and they are principally responsible for wild land fires with both full time and seasonal firefighters.
There are about 400 volunteer firefighters serving at the 30 fire stations on the map. Most of these fire stations have firefighters on duty 24 hours a day at the stations, and are equipped and trained to handle almost any type of emergency including injuries sustained due to vehicle, motorcycle, or bicycle accidents as well as other injuries such as snake bites, for example.
The biggest challenge for these volunteer fire stations is funding for equipment and training. There is not enough tax funding for operating expenses, training and equipment. This is where the San Diego Regional Fire Foundation with $4 million in grants has played such a vital role the last 23 years. However, all citizens who enjoy their “backyard” need to help fund fire and medical services in those areas, so our volunteer firefighters can provide the same level of service you have at home.