Residents of Encinitas, Del Mar, and Solana Beach may soon see a different name on the side of their fire trucks.
The combined department’s name change is part of a management agreement reached a few years ago between the individual three city-owned districts. Consolidating major expenses such as fire chiefs, marshals, inspectors, and equipment saves the cities an estimated $250,000 a year. A one-name district is part of the plan.
“The chiefs want a bigger empire,” said one disgruntled Encinitas firefighter, who asked not to be identified. “The people of Encinitas want us to represent Encinitas. Everything is working fine under the three city names,” he added.
Some of the suggested names — Southern California Fire, San Diego Coastal Fire, and North Shore Fire — haven’t flown high with community enthusiasm. “San Diego Coastal? What does that mean?” said the firefighter, questioning the lack of a geography-specific name.
Encinitas fire officials have pointed to the success of the unified Heartland Fire Department, made up of the cities of El Cajon, Lemon Grove, and La Mesa.
“It appeared the management was going to ram this through without community input,” the firefighter added. He said the issue is still on the table, even though not much has been said about it recently. “If they have to change the name, it should be the ‘San Dieguito Fire Department,’” he said.
Capt. Jim Mickelson, president of the Encinitas Firefighters Association IAFF Local 3787 told the Reader he acknowledges that there are those in his ranks who want to retain the Encinitas name for their department. “We would lose some community identity,” he said.
But Mickelson assured residents that all of the firefighters in the districts would serve their communities well, no matter what patch they wear or what’s on the side of the fire truck. “We all [Solana Beach and Del Mar] train together,” he said. “We are treated as one district now — no boundaries — the closest fire truck goes,” he added.
Mickelson did acknowledge that it is sometimes weird to have another district’s chief sleeping in your firehouse. “Change is awkward,” Mickelson said.
Last month the City of Carlsbad said no thanks to having their fire department join the three-city management agreement. Rancho Santa Fe Fire, the central dispatch for fire departments from Del Mar to Fallbrook and keepers of the arsenal of wildfire-fighting equipment, pulled out of the 2009 agreement a few years ago.
Mickelson, pointing out that many firefighters also live in the communities they serve, said it should be “ultimately up to us citizens to decide.”
Historical footnote: San Dieguito was the name of Juan María Osuna’s 1845 land grant from the last governor of Mexican California, Pio Pico. The area running from Carmel Valley north to the La Costa area, east to Elfin Forest and Rancho Santa Fe, still has schools, parks, and businesses using the name. In 1982, incorporation for the City of San Dieguito failed by a four-to-one vote, which later passed as the City of Encinitas in 1986.