Fate of Julian fire department in limbo as court hearing delayed
“They’ve turned off dispatch,” said district director and volunteer firefighter Brian Kramer. “They’re not dispatching us, but we’re there and ready to answer a call if any come in"
J. Harry Jones
The San Diego Union-Tribune
JULIAN, Calif. — The standoff in Julian between the community’s volunteer fire department and the county will continue until at least next week after a court hearing was postponed Wednesday.
A lawyer representing the Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District on Wednesday tried to get a judge to issue a temporary restraining order that would have barred the county’s Fire Authority from taking control of the volunteer department’s fire station and equipment. But an attorney representing the Local Agency Formation Commission, which is being sued by the Julian district, asked that a different judge hear the case.
Attorneys on either side of a civil case have the right to challenge the appointment of a judge. No reason was given for the challenge.
There were no other judges available Wednesday to hear the restraining order request so the hearing has been reset for the morning of April 17 before San Diego Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer.
The commission, better known as LAFCO, voted unanimously on Monday to dissolve the volunteer department after voters in the area opted to go with the county’s professional Fire Authority in a special election.
Meanwhile, county firefighters stationed in two Cal Fire stations in the area are responding to all emergencies. Volunteer firefighters are not being dispatched even though they are manning their station a couple miles south of the mountain town.
The county says that a contract for dispatch services expired with the volunteers several weeks ago and has not been renewed.
“They’ve turned off dispatch,” said district director and volunteer firefighter Brian Kramer. “They’re not dispatching us, but we’re there and ready to answer a call if any come in.”
The volunteers on Monday afternoon denied access to their station to county officials who wanted to inspect the facility in anticipation of Fire Authority firefighters moving in later this month.
Since then, the county has informed the volunteer department it will not try to gain access to the station until the court hearing has taken place, and only then depending on the court ruling. Between now and April 17, the status quo remains.
Attorney Cory Briggs, representing the volunteer department’s board of directors who are opposed to the county takeover, maintains LAFCO had no right to dissolve the volunteer department because of a recent court ruling.
That ruling, issued Friday, said actions taken last year by the volunteer board directors who are no longer in charge, had been done illegally, in violation of the Brown Act, the state’s open meetings law.
LAFCO went ahead and dissolved the department Monday even though Briggs told them they had no right. The lawsuit, filed against LAFCO hours later, seeks to overturn LAFCO’s decision on the theory that if the original request to be taken over was illegal, everything that followed, including the public vote, should be nullified.
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