On Tuesday, Dec. 4, the U.S. Forest Service and CAL FIRE announced that they had adjusted their fire protection responsibilities on the Hill. Separately, CAL FIRE will increase its firefighting resources on the Hill next year.
“This is an annual process where we review responsibilities,” said San Bernardino National Forest Fire Chief Shawna Legarza. The federal and state agencies have a cooperative agreement, which specifies how they will work together before, during, and after possible fires throughout the state.
“The realignment of acres allows shorter response runs,” said Legarza, who also confirmed that the Forest Service would continue to staff seven fire stations within the district.
CAL FIRE intends to station two more fire engines on the Hill next year, according to Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins. He confirmed that one engine would be stationed north of Idyllwild, possibly at Station 23, and the other engine near Anza, possibly Station 29.
There are many areas within California, not just near the San Jacinto Ranger District, where the agencies’ responsibilities can overlap. This agreement helps ensure efficient and effective fire protection. Each agency, including the Bureau of Land Management, has specific land for which it is the first responder. These are called “Direct Protection Areas.”
“The adjustments are effective Jan. 1, 2013,” Hawkins said. The decision to shift responsibility for areas is largely based on each agency’s mission, both fire chiefs affirmed.
“There will be no reduction in service or resources,” Hawkins stressed.
Legarza described the pending changes this way, “CAL FIRE will have the DPA for Lawler Lodge, Pine Cove, Idyllwild and Lake Hemet. The Forest Service will continue to have DPA on Forest Service lands in and around those areas.”
The accompanying map depicts the specific adjustments. CAL FIRE will assume more direct protection from just north of Lawler Lodge and extend south to the edge of Idyllwild and from Mountain Center to Lake Hemet, Legarza said. To the south, the changes begin at Morris Ranch Road in Garner Valley to Paradise Corners and continue east through the Santa Rosa Indian Reservation and from the Santa Rosa Reservation (which is a current CAL FIRE jurisdiction) past Pinyon to about Bighorn.