San Diego County Board of Supervisors will hire a consultant to develop a study to assess the delivery of fire and emergency medical services in the county.
A 5-0 vote April 7 by the supervisors appropriated $300,000 of general fund money for the consultant, authorized the director of the county’s Department of Purchasing and Contracting to call for competitive bids and to award a contract for up to 12 months, directed their chief administrative officer to retain the consultant, and directed county staff to return to the board with status updates quarterly and to return to the board after the study’s completion with recommendations on how best to use the information.
“I think it’s going to be very helpful to have this study done,” said Supervisor Greg Cox.
The study will assess current levels of service, identify future needs, provide options for a regional governance structure, and develop cost-feasible proposals to improve the region’s ability to fight wildfires, enhance day-to-day operations for local agencies, and enhance the delivery of fire and emergency medical services throughout the county.
“This is a comprehensive study that would be the blueprint,” said board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob. “It will answer the question once and for all what do we need and what will it cost.”
The county has committed $15.5 million annually to augment rural fire protection in the most vulnerable areas, which has enhanced fire protection services at more than 50 fire stations. A 2008 reorganization placed all unincorporated territory within the county’s jurisdiction and not within the jurisdiction of a public agency into the San Diego County Fire Authority, and ultimately more than 1.5 million acres will be served by that county agency.
“This translates into faster response times,” Jacob said.
The assessment would determine both regional needs and the needs of each local agency.
“I think this was a great next step in determining what needs to be done,” San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District Chief Augie Ghio, chair of the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association, said of the vote. “This is a huge step, and a 5-0 vote by the Board of Supervisors tells us they are serious.”
The San Diego County Fire Districts Association also supported the proposal.
“This agenda item will create a foundational and fundamental study that identifies where we are at and where we as the fire service should strive to go for each agency individually and corporately for the county as a whole,” said Lakeside Fire Protection District Chief Mark Baker, who chairs the San Diego County Fire Districts Association.
“The next step is to continue working with fire officials to see that this region is the best prepared that it can be,” Jacob said. “We can’t afford to be unprepared.”