Wednesday, July 23, 2014 • 03:22
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Independent fire district to be explored



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March 26, 2014
The wheels have started rolling toward the creation of an independent Valley Center Fire Protection District.

In response to a bold proposal presented by Board Treasurer Phil Bell last month, President Weaver Simonsen has appointed a committee to explore the related challenges and benefits of a self-sufficient VCFPD. Secretary Oliver Smith will head up the committee, set the timeline, and report back on their findings.

"The goal is to have the information we need to make an informed and public decision six months from the last meeting, when we voted on it," said Smith.

In February, the board voted to continue working with the San Pasqual Reservation Fire Department for the indefinite future, but to revisit Bell's alternative proposal for an independent fire district in August. Bell estimated the district could save $165,000 over their current budget through the move. However, questions remain surrounding the infrastructure and policies of a self-contained fire district.

"We as a board — and I'm sure I can speak for each and every member of this board — we want to ensure that the path we go down is viable and sustainable," said Simonsen.

Management positions, training policies, a human resources department, funding, equipment, and facilities are some of the logistical concerns the committee will be investigating in the coming months.

Every board member was encouraged to recommend someone from the community for the independent committee, which Simonsen anticipates seating seven members with possible subcommittees as well. To avoid any conflict of interest, members of the committee will not be permitted to hold a position in the future fire district.

Simonsen also emphasized the need for the public to give their input on the prospect of an independent VCFPD.

"We are looking for people volunteering," said Simonsen who invited any interested community members send their information to District Administrator John Byrne at 760-751-7600.

Simonsen also took a few minutes to dispel the myth that an independent VCFPD would be handling wildland fires on its own, such as the Witch Fire in 2007. Valley Center is in a state responsibility area, meaning that Cal Fire will step in the event of a major wildfire.

"If we have a major fire up here, brush, wildland, with 40 and 50 mile an hour winds, the bottom line is Cal Fire is going to be here, and they're going to be the one's taking charge, and we're going to support them," said Simonsen. "We're going to continue to do what we do with a great deal of excellence, and that's provide the day-to-day emergency medical services to people."

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