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San Pasqual to take over VC fire stations from Cal Fire Sept. 1


July 24, 2013
In a little over a month Cal Fire officials will hand over the day-to-day operation of Valley Center's two fire stations on Lilac and N. Lake Wohlford roads to officials of San Pasqual Tribal Fire Dept.

Tribal fire officers will take over staffing of Valley Center Fire Protection District's (VCFPD) two stations from Cal Fire beginning Aug. 31. Currently the transition between the two entities is taking place.

According to VCFPD administrator John Byrne, "We got a list of things that need to be accomplished in the next month. We have operational meetings every Tuesday between myself, [fire marshal] George Lucia and Chief [Harold] Rodriquez."

Thursdays they meet with the District Oversight Committee that includes two fire board members to review the status of the changeover. During the Thursday meeting a representative of Cal Fire sometimes attends to deal with Cal Fire's role in handing over responsibility for the two stations.

According to Byrne, a couple examples of things that need to be covered are "engine familiarization." "We need to get our mechanic guy to put on a class to get their guys familiar with our engines." Another thing that staffs of both departments need to familiarize themselves with are training policies and procedures. "It's a long list of items," said Byrne.

The tribal fire department will provide chiefs and engineers to oversee Valley Center reserve firefighters, who will continue to provide the bulk of those answering fire calls in the VC.

Cal Fire's traditional role of fighting wildfires, which it is mandated to do by state law, will not change under this new arrangement. Cal Fire will continue to operate the state funded Station on Vesper Road.

Last month when the VC Fire Board voted unanimously to contract with the tribal fire department, for much less money than it is currently paying Cal Fire, officials of all three agencies promised a smooth transition. A transition team with people from VCFPD, the tribal department and Cal Fire is working to make the changeover as smooth as possible.

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 at the June 27 meeting.

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.

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