FireHouse 101
Regional Overview
San Diego Spotlight

What is CAL FIRE?

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CAL FIRE at the Chihuahua fire
Photo courtesy of K.E. Pack.

May 2014 San Diego Wildfires.
2014 Napa Earthquake.


If there is a disaster in California, CAL FIRE will be there.

Founded in 1905, CAL FIRE’S mission is to serve and protect the people, propert

y and resources of California, with their primary responsibility being wildland fires on state lands or in unincorporated areas.

However, as a State entity, CAL FIRE and fire agencies across the state have agreements to provide extensive emergency assistance at a moment’s notice. This assistance can come in the shape of additional

firefighters, equipment, and resource management needed to mitigate an emergency.

What is an Incident Management Team (IMT)?
CAL FIRE Incident Management Teams work under the direction of the agency having jurisdiction for the incident. The IMTs manage large complex incidents that extend into multiple operational periods. CAL FIRE IMTs respond to large complex wildland fires; as well as major hazardous materials incidents, flood fighting operations, earthquakes and other incidents or activities requiring a leadership and management organizational structure.

For example, during the May 2014 Fires, an Incident management team—specifically designed to help manage disasters—was brought into San Diego to help coordinate multiple fires throughout the County. According to CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Nick Schuler, “CAL FIRE has 6 Incident management teams that are available to re

More than fire fighting
spond to any emergency. When it was determined that the fire was beyond the initial attack capabilities of fire agencies, an Incident Management Team was requested.”

CAL FIRE responds to more than 5,600 wildland fires each year. But, like any fire department, the majority of their calls are not wildfire-related. CAL FIRE is called to more than 350,000 other statewide emergenciesannually, including:

CAL FIRE on the front lines of wildfires
Photo courtesy of K.E. Pack.

  • automobile accidents
  •  search and rescues
  • medical aids
  •  swift water rescues
  • hazardous material spills
  • vehicle/structure fires

CAL FIRE is more than a fire department protecting State land—they are the web that creates communication and collaboration between cities, counties, and State lands during crisis events.



  • 803 fire stations (228 state and 575 local government)
  • 39 conservation camps
  • 13 air attack
  • 9 helitack bases


  • 4,700 full-time fire professionals, foresters, and administrative employees
  • 3,100 seasonal firefighters
  • 5,600 local volunteer firefighters
  • 2,600 volunteers in fire prevention
  • 4,300 inmates and wards


To transport and support these forces, CAL FIRE operates over

  • 1,095 fire engines  (336 state and 759 local government)
  • 5 mobile communication centers
  • 11 mobile kitchen units
  • 215 rescue squads
  • 23 1,200-gallon air tankers
  • 63 paramedic units
  • 11 helicopters
  • 38 aerial ladder trucks
  • 13 air tactical planes
  • 58 bulldozers

Find out more about CAL FIRE on their website.