ENCINITAS — If some of the community gets their way, a new fire station will serve the most rural portion of the city. While a private ambulance may serve as a temporary fix, Olivenhain should eventually have its own fire station just like the other four communities of the city according to several residents who addressed the City Council on March 23.
At least 20 people spoke during the packed meeting in support of a new fire station. The council took notice and unanimously agreed to make improving its fire and medical aid response times in Olivenhain a “top priority.” Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said the city was making “movement in the right direction” by prioritizing the Olivenhain issue.
“We are a part of the incorporated city of Encinitas … why do we have to have any less of a service than the rest of the community?” asked Tony Brandenburg, president of the Olivenhain Town Council.
Among other solutions, council members said the city might look into eventually creating a new fire station to share with Rancho Santa Fe.
City fire officials said some response time improvements would happen soon for the rural community. However, Councilwoman Teresa Barth warned residents that creating a joint fire station would not be a quick fix.
“It’s a long process,” she said referring to the construction and funding of a new fire station. She reminded the audience that the Cardiff Station has been in the works for five years. “And we haven’t broken ground yet,” she said.
During a presentation Mark Muir, the city’s fire chief, said that the eastern side of town, particularly the far eastern end of Olivenhain along Lone Jack Road, was their “problem area.”
Emergency responders get to Olivenhain in 11 minutes, about 80 percent of the time according to official estimates. The city’s goal is five minutes or less to respond to an emergency call.
Fire officials offered several suggestions to reduce the response times. One immediate measure could be changing the location of one of the two private ambulances that take some medical aid calls under a contract with the city, Muir told the council.
The city also plans to add a new electronic opener for the front gate at Morning Sun Drive. That will allow quicker access to the area and reduce response times by 12 to 15 seconds Muir said.
For a long-term solution, Muir suggested that the city could move into an existing station with either Rancho Santa Fe or Carlsbad.
Muir also suggested that the city relocate its downtown Fire Station No. 1 to Olivenhain. That would allow the city to respond to most of the Olivenhain area’’ high-priority calls within six minutes he said.
However, it would come at a cost to the downtown area where he estimated response times would increase from an average of four minutes to six minutes. The downtown area had nearly 1,300 calls for fire or medical aid in the last two years, while the far eastern edge of Olivenhain had 95 according to records.