ST. GEORGE – Winchester Hills and Diamond Valley may soon have their own separate fire departments as the county commission took the first steps toward splitting the Southwestern Special Service District into two.
At a regular meeting Tuesday, the Washington County Commission is proposing to exclude Diamond Valley from the fire district and establish a new Diamond Valley Fire Special Service District.
The Southwestern Special Service District was established by the county in September 1997, but functions independently, for the most part, including separate fire chiefs, equipment, fire stations, training and policies.
“The two fire chiefs have fundamentally different views on wildland firefighting,” Assistant County Attorney Eric Clarke said.
Diamond Valley brings in younger firefighters, gets them trained in wildland fire suppression and then contracts them out to fight wildland fires, making money for the district in the process. Santa Clara City does the same thing.
Winchester Hills prefers not to get involved in wildland firefighting and so can maintain a smaller department, Clarke said.
“The state fire marshal says, ‘Look, they both provide all the fire protection the communities need.’ It’s just a different outlook,” Clarke said.
“It’s not that one’s wrong and one’s right, but they are so different in their views that there’s been some contention up there, there’s been some pretty long board meetings up there. And so they’ve asked just to split.”
Finances have also been maintained separately and Clarke said the assets can be divided equitably and creditors will likely agree to the split.
“It shouldn’t be that difficult.”
The commission received a petition from the majority of the residents asking that the district be split up, Clarke said, and the board of the Southwestern fire district also requested the move.
Public hearings on both resolutions will be held June 15 at 7 p.m. at the Diamond Valley Fire Station, 1651 West Diamond Valley Drive.
After the public hearings, a public comment and protest period will open, Clarke said, although the county does not expect opposition to the move.
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