The San Diego County Regional Fire Authority, a fire department that will cover almost 1 million unincorporated acres in the county, is now officially open, according to the Local Agency Formation Commission, which approved the creation of the body last year.

The creation of the authority marks the first step in a years-long effort to merge several dozen smaller fire departments that are mainly in the rural east and north of the county. The county Board of Supervisors has pledged $15.5 million annually to fund the agency, which will be run by the county.

“The San Diego County Regional Fire Authority is now in full force and effect,” LAFCO Executive Officer Michael Ott said in a press release. “This marks the culmination of five years of diligent and collaborative work by LAFCO, public safety officials, policy makers and members of the public.”

(I touched on the creation of the Regional Fire Authority in this Q&A with Augie Ghio, fire chief of the San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District, one of the county’s largest rural firefighting districts.)

The new agency is not to be confused with what would have come about with Proposition A, which narrowly failed at the polls on Nov. 4. Proposition A would have created, in one swoop, a countywide fire department. What LAFCO has been doing, spurred on by county Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who has pushed the integration of fire services, represents a more incremental approach to merging the county’s hodgepodge of rural fire departments.

WILL CARLESS

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