Through 1974 – California Department of Forestry Funded Fire Protection
San Diego County contracted with the California Department of Forestry (CDF) to provide fire protection and medical aid to the unincorporated area of the County until 1974. Since there was no requirement to provide fire protection and medical aid in the County charter and after the passage of Proposition 13, the CDF contract was terminated and the financial resources supporting that contract were redeployed in the County.
Through 1982 – Partial funding by the County
To provide fire and medical services in the rural areas of San Diego County, volunteer fire departments were formed. Through 1982, San Diego County provided some funding to the volunteer fire departments. As the population increased in the rural areas of the County, more volunteer fire departments were formed. Most struggled since they had little, if any, tax base to generate funds. However, several became paid fire departments as the population in their community increased to the point of having a sufficient tax base to support a paid fire department.
Through 2000 -- Departments Evolve Depending on Funding
By 2000 there were three types of fire departments.
- Fully paid fire departments, mostly city departments and some fire protection districts in more urbanized areas.
- Combination fire departments with some paid firefighters and some volunteers.
- Fully volunteer fire departments.
The nature of the type of fire department that a community has is dictated by the tax base of the area (financial support) and volume of emergency incidents.
2007 + County Fire Authority created
After San Diego County experienced the wildfires of 2003 and 2007, the County engaged an outside firm to look at and report on the delivery of fire services in the County. The result of this report was the formation of the County Fire Authority. This agency has authority over 12 of the 18 volunteer fire departments, though others could opt to the join the Fire Authority. The Fire Authority has helped staff volunteer fire departments by providing a daily stipend for two firefighters, organized more coordinated training, and provided some fire engines and water tenders.