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County increases fire protection in rural areas

REGION — San Diego County is aiming to enhance fire protection in its rural areas with measures taken by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning.

Supervisors approved the increase of a fire mitigation fee, purchase of equipment, and additional appropriation of funds for the volunteer fire fighting training program to better support the County’s Fire Authority.

San Diego County’s Fire Authority was founded in 2008 to improve fire protection and emergency medical services throughout the region, particularly the county’s unincorporated areas.

“Residents and visitors to San Diego’s 1.5 million acres of backcountry can expect professionally trained and equipped fire fighters to respond in an average of 10.5 minutes,” said Fire Warden Ron Lane of the Fire Authority’s work.

With its approximately $17.5 million annual budget, the Fire Authority links the efforts of 15 rural fire agencies staffed by Cal Fire or volunteer fire fighters to provide emergency response all hours of the day and night.

Before the creation of the Fire Authority, only five Cal Fire stations covered the county’s rural lands during the winter, according to Lane.

To better fund these agencies, the Board of Supervisors agreed to increase the county’s fire mitigation fee.

The fee, which was established in 1986, covers the additional expenses of protecting new developments. It is collected as part of obtaining a building permit for a new structure.

In fiscal year 2012-13, the county collected $864,801 in fire mitigation fees.

As of July 1, the fee will increase from 47 cents to 52 cents per square foot for general buildings.

For agricultural buildings without fire sprinklers, the fee will be raised from 12 cents to 14 cents per square foot.

The County Board of Supervisors also voted in favor of allocating over $250,000 of public safety funds to purchase a new fire engine to serve the community of Boulevard as well as radios, fire hoses, rescue tools, and other equipment for county agencies.

In addition to purchasing equipment, $30,000 of the approved funds was allocated for specialized training for the county’s volunteer firefighters.