With fire season seeming to start early this year, the Fallbrook Sheriff’s deputies have prepared to help with road closures, traffic control and firefighter support.
According to Fallbrook substation commander Lt. David Gilmore, the deputies are equipped with a cotton jacket treated with Nomex, making the fabric flame resistant; a kerchief to protect their faces; and a set of goggles.
“Our focus is to provide support to firefighters, as well as see how to best coordinate our efforts in using our helicopter and removing animals in danger of wildfire,” said Gilmore. “We are not firefighters, and this is meant to help protect deputies from the elements, like flying embers. Every year we go through an inspection. People’s greatest fear in this area is fire, so we make sure we are trained with fire to aid during this time.”
Though deputies’ gear may look similar in color and shape to that of a firefighter, the deputy gear is not meant for house entry. Firefighters wear several fire resistant layers that are meant to help insulate them from the scorching heat of close flames. The Sheriff gear is not.
Patty Koch, a representative from the North County Fire Protection District (NCFPD), said that the deputies also help with road closures during fires and directing traffic during emergencies.
In addition, every year the deputies are given training on how to respond to a fire from a law enforcement perspective. In recent years, deputies have worked with CalFire and the NCFPD to train for various scenarios where multiple agencies must work together and protect the community.
“We work side by side as public safety officers,” said Gilmore. “An example of this was the incident on East Alvarado at an apartment complex that needed to be completely evacuated. We created an incident command post, and we had a joint command until the incident was rendered safe.”
Other times that a joint command between agencies might be used is during a wildfire, said Koch.
“We can help people evacuate and navigate traffic through road closures,” said Koch.
Another incident that required joint command between agencies was the recent I-15 fire, which required Sheriff’s deputies, CHP officers, CalFire and NCFPD to work together to fight the fire and still allow for traffic to go through.
“I had one sergeant arrive at the scene, and he was able to take command at the fire,” said Gilmore. “I was then able to direct my attention to the Pala fire, which was still going on at the same time.”
One important element that allows for all agencies to work together is its incident command system (ICS), which was recently adopted by the Sheriff’s department and has been used by fire departments for several years. According to Koch, the ICS is translated to all mediums, and has an incident log that all agencies can understand.
“Historically, our communication between agencies was not good,” said Gilmore. “ICS allows us to see if we are needed at an incident. We can hear about what type of fire it is, where it’s located, and if we need to respond. We want to be set up for success.”