San Pasqual to take over staffing of VC fire stations 72 & 73 on September 1
Allen Lawson, chairman of the San Pasqual Band of Indians (left) and Weaver Simonsen, president of the board of the Valley Center Fire Protection District, seal the deal Thursday night on the arrangement whereby the tribal fire department will provide staffing at both Stations 72 & 73 beginning in August.
July 02, 2013The transition of staffing of two of Valley Center Fire Protection District's (VCFPD) stations from Cal Fire to the San Pasqual Tribal Fire Dept. has begun. Cal Fire will continue to staff Stations 72 and 73 until Aug. 31. The next day the tribal department will take over staffing.
Even so, most of the firefighters responding from the two stations will continue to be Valley Center reserve firefighters. San Pasqual will provide officers and engineers to oversee them. Cal Fire's traditional role of fighting wildfires, which it is mandated to do by state law, will not change under this new arrangement.
VCFPD board President Weaver Simonsen promised that residents will notice no change in the level of service. "The community will see no difference. You'll still see red fire engines show up," he said.
Thursday night the Valley Center Fire Protection District board took the second of two votes that contracted with San Pasqual to staff the two fire stations. The first vote, on June 20, had contracted with the tribe to staff Station 73. The second vote added Station 72 to the contract. The time interval between the two votes was taken up with negotiations with Cal Fire, as the district had initially hoped to split its contract between Cal Fire and San Pasqual. However, Cal Fire declined to do so, citing problems with a divided command structure.
Allen Lawson, chairman of the San Pasqual tribe, was asked to say a few words by board Pres. Weaver Simonsen. "My family was here in Valley Center one hundred and seven years ago and for tens of thousands of years before that," he said. "This is our community and we are proud to be part of this community. We will hopefully be part of this community for another ten thousand years." The chairman said he was excited that the tribe would be participating in the community on another level.
Chief Lawson (no relation to the chairman), representing Cal Fire Unit Chief Tom Porter, commander of all Cal Fire firefighters in San Diego County, promised a smooth transition from Cal Fire to the tribal department. A transition team with people from VCFPD, the tribal department and Cal Fire has been appointed to make the changeover as smooth as possible.
Simonsen said, "I'm privileged to have such good neighbors as San Pasqual. It's a privilege to have you in our community. I also appreciate Cal Fire. This change has not been easy for them and ultimately the complexities of running two organizations out of one district would have been too onerous."
Cal Fire, he added, "is not going away." Neither are the Cal Fire firefighters who are currently assigned to Valley Center. They will be absorbed at other Cal Fire stations around the county. "We expect the transition to go smoothly," said Simonsen.
Simonsen also commented Valley Center's reservists for their professionalism and dedication. "We operate successfully because of the staff. We remain committed to continuing to meet their needs," he said.
Cal Fire will continue its current contract with the District for services until August 31. Thereafter, the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indian's Fire Department will provide those services to the district utilizing Tribal Company officer level personnel to the district at each of its Stations 72 and 73 augmented with District reserve firefighters. Cal Fire will continue to operate the state funded Station on Vesper Road in Valley Center and will remain responsible for wild land fire suppression and investigations.
In a joint statement released to the press on Friday morning by District Administrator John H. Byrne and Chairman Lawson, they said, "This restructuring of relationships is necessary to the continued financial solvency of the District. The District is sincerely saddened to have to end its long cooperative relationship with CAL FIRE. The District is also delighted to enter into a new relationship with its San Pasqual neighbors and long standing community partners."