JULIAN, Calif., (KGTV)— Firefighters in Julian are hoping to keep San Diego’s last volunteer fire department alive, despite being voted to shut down last week.
The Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District is now suing the County, alleging the decision to dissolve the department was made in secret meetings. The court hearing for Wednesday was postponed in Downtown San Diego after a judge recused himself from the case.
Two weeks ago, Debbie Mushet voted to have the county take over the Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District [JCFPD].
“I definitely voted yes for it, and I thought that was the end of it,” Mushet said.
In this special election, 56% of Julian residents voted to have the San Diego County Fire overtake the historic volunteer department.
“It’s worked as long as I’ve been up here, but it doesn’t work anymore. There’s a time when things just need to change,” Mushet said. “The volunteers have done a great job ion the past, but it’s just the money wasn’t going to be there.”
Despite losing the special election and a unanimous vote by the Local Agency Formation Commission to officially dissolve the department, volunteer firemen are not ready to give up. Attorney Cory Briggs, who represents JCFPD said that decision was made through secret meetings. Therefore, the election results and the commission votes are “null and void.”
When the County transition team came to the station on Monday, protestors staged a sit-in, refusing the leave the premises. JCFPD said in a statement, the County sent armed Sheriffs Deputies to “intimidate the unarmed JCFPD personnel who were peaceful truing to secure their facilities and equipment while the new lawsuit works its way through the courts.”
“CalFire and the Julian Fire Department that exists now, I don’t understand why we can’t coexist,” Debbie Hickey said. “Every time it’s been really good response times. They knew right where to come.”
For years, Hickey has relied on the Julian Fire Department for emergency care for her ill husband. She said she trusts the locals more than an outsider who would be assigned to cover the Julian area.
“If I was to call 9-1-1, I don’t know who will come, I don’t know what the response time will be, and that’s a very scary situation to be in,” Hickey said. “My husband is staying down in the city during this time because quite frankly, I’m scared to death to let him come home to Julian.”
A volunteer fireman told 10News off camera that since Monday they have not been allowed to respond to emergency incidents. In fact, they said their radios were disconnected. In the meantime, all 9-1-1 calls are being handled by Cal-Fire Station 50, down the street from the JCFPD station.
While there is no official sit-in happening now, there are still many volunteers at the station. Volunteer crews have barricaded their engines inside the garage with their SUV’s, to try to stop the county from towing their vehicles.
Either way, Mushet said this back and forth is getting out of control.
“Let the vote speak for itself, let the count come in, volunteers step back, and it’s over and done,” Mushet said. “This is ridiculous. They asked for the vote they got their vote, and they were not happy with the decision, so they’re refusing to give in and it’s just sad. I’ve never seen this town so divided.”
Wednesday’s court hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. was delayed after the assigned judge recused himself from the case. No reason was given for his recusal. The hearing was postponed until next Wednesday, April 17, 2019.