County joins Heartland fire training joint powers agreement

By Joe Naiman

Heartland Fire Training Authority is no longer a joint powers agency merely for East County.

The County of San Diego, which administers the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority, has joined the Heartland Fire Training Authority. County supervisors voted 5-0 Nov. 8 to approve membership in the Heartland agency and also authorized the county’s fire warden or the fire warden’s designee to execute the amendment to the Heartland joint powers agreement and to make subsequent amendments, renewals and extensions that do not materially impact the program or funding level.

The District 2 county supervisor or designee will serve as the County of San Diego appointee on the Heartland board while the county’s fire warden or designee will serve as county representative on the agency’s board of fire chiefs.

The county will pay Heartland Fire Training Authority $400,000 to use its training facilities through June 30, 2017.

“This item represents a great accomplishment and highlights the continued success of the San Diego County Fire Authority,” said District 2 Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “I look forward to the opportunity to maximize resources.”

The County of San Diego becomes the second agency outside of East County to join the Heartland agency; the Bonita-Sunnyside Fire Protection District is also a member. The cities of El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Santee are members, as are the Lakeside, San Miguel and Alpine fire protection districts. Heartland Fire Training Authority was formed to provide joint equipment, maintenance, operations and staffing to train its member agencies’ fire departments in firefighting and emergency medical response skills.

“They’re going to use it for academies,” county fire service coordinator Ken Miller said of the volunteer fire departments’ new access to the Heartland training facilities.

San Diego County Regional Fire Authority was created in 2008 when the Board of Supervisors and San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission approved the first phase of a plan to reorganize fire protection and emergency medical services in unincorporated San Diego County. The first phase brought territory not within the boundaries of a public agency but served by a volunteer fire department into the SDCRFA and included the area served by the DeLuz, Intermountain, Ocotillo Wells, Ranchita, Shelter Valley and Sunshine Summit volunteer fire departments, which kept their autonomy and now work with the professional firefighters serving those areas. The second phase covered the county service areas providing fire protection and paramedic service to Boulevard, Campo, Mount Laguna, Palomar Mountain, and San Pasqual.

The volunteer firefighters work alongside professional California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firefighters, and in the past 12 months the SDCRFA has had six academies at CalFire’s Monte Vista facility.

“This will be one of the two sites that we will now use,” Miller said of the Heartland training center. “We’re going to do specialized classes that are open to all the volunteers. Now instead of doing it at a fire station, they’re actually going to do it at a training ground.”

SDCRFA will coordinate with Heartland for training dates.

In September 2010, the county supervisors approved an implementation plan for a regional deployment study conducted in 2009 and 2010 and which included recommendations that the county develop cost-sharing abilities for regional training and determine common training needs.

“The county has achieved this through negotiations with the Heartland Fire Authority,” Jacob said. “This board and the county continue to mean business.”

The supervisors’ 2010 meetings also included work on the 2010-11 budget. The total Neighborhood Reinvestment Program budget was reduced from $10 million to $5 million and, when the county supervisors approved the budget in June 2010, the other $5 million was earmarked for fire and emergency medical needs. During the approval of the implementation plan, $1.3 million was earmarked for the development of regional and satellite training facilities, and the $400,000 payment for the use of the training facilities was included in the 2011-12 budget.

   
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