Founded in 1989 to strengthen the system of fire and emergency services in San Diego County, the San Diego Regional Fire Foundation is extremely proud of the progress which we have made in meeting our mission.
Though many aspects of the delivery of fire and emergency services in the County initially needed attention, the weakest link was the poor state of the volunteer fire departments in the County which were receiving no County funding and very little tax based funding.
Early grants were about $20,000 per year and went to such very basic needs as new tires for fire engines, fire hose and basic medical and fire equipment. With the support of the community, that funding has increased to about $250,000 annually and total grants to all fire agencies for equipment, training and communications have reached $4 million.
In addition to this equipment and training which have brought up all fire departments to the level of being very effective, another large accomplishment in the County has been the increased cooperation and coordination amongst all fire departments. Today, the closest fire engine is dispatched to an emergency whether it is in its own jurisdiction or that of a neighboring fire department. Mutual aid responses are automatic.
With all this improvement, much is still needed as witnessed by our major wildfires and increased number of calls as the County’s population has grown. Making the challenge even greater for all fire departments is the fact that fuel, insurance and other operating costs continue to increase, while tax dollars to fund these activities have in many cases shrunk as a result of the economic environment leading to a decrease in property values and property taxes which support fire departments. The most severe example is in Julian where hundreds of homes were lost in the 2003 Cedar Fire and many were not rebuilt, leading to a permanent reduction in the community’s tax base.
The County of San Diego commissioned a study after the 2007 wildfires, which made many recommendations to improve the fire services in San Diego County. While much progress has been made on these recommendations, funding limitations prevent some recommendations from being implemented. A follow-up report noted many improvements, but also recommended that the Fire Foundation take the lead role in conducting a needs assessment for all volunteer fire departments and initiating a County-wide program of public awareness.
There is much for the Fire Foundation to do in its efforts to strengthen and maintain the current system of fire and medical services.
- Equipment must be replaced as it wears out from serving the community, this is everything from fire hose to fire trucks and medical supplies and equipment used for treating patients.
- There is a continual need to train and equip new firefighters to replace those retiring and volunteer firefighters who get hired by paid fire departments. The hiring of volunteers by paid departments results in about a 40% turnover rate each year for volunteer firefighters.
The Fire Foundation has and will continue to help serve and support our County firefighters who save the lives and property of our residents and the wonderful environment in which we live.
- Founded 1989
- Increased Grants from $20,000 to Current Grants: $250,000 per year
- Increased cooperation between County agencies