Carlsbad (CA) Gets First State Fire Apparatus

A state-issued chartreuse fire engine will be based in Carlsbad for the first time since California started distributing the garish-colored vehicles in the 1950s.

The $242,000 off-road engine, primarily used for fighting brush fires, presents a sharp contrast to the Carlsbad department’s traditional red vehicles. It arrived last weekend from Sacramento, where the California Office of Emergency Services (OES) issues them to local fire departments participating in the statewide mutual aid system.

The engine is owned by the state, but Carlsbad can use it as needed, said California OES Fire and Rescue Chief Kim Zagaris in Sacramento.

“We may decide to move the engine for operational needs or if they’re not meeting the terms of the agreement,” Zagaris said. “If we’re happy and they’re happy, they’ll have it a long, long time.”

San Marcos was the only other city in the county to get one of the off-road trucks this year, but that city received a water-tender through the state program 10 years ago. San Diego, Escondido and Oceanside also have state off-road engines, whose bright yellow-green color scheme helps them stand out in a crowd of emergency vehicles, officials said.

The engines come with strings attached — the recipients can use the trucks locally, but they also must respond to wildfires, earthquakes floods or other disasters anywhere in California. Together, the local cities round out a San Diego County strike team with a single commander, and crews of four firefighters for each of the five engines.

Carlsbad Fire Chief Mike Davis called receiving the state engine “a good fiscal deal” for the city, and one the city has been trying to get since 2008.

“We’ll drive their vehicle to their fires,” Davis said. “Right now we’re driving our vehicle to their fires.”

The state’s mutual aid program assures small departments they can get a big response when they need it during an emergency. The program saved lives and property in Carlsbad a year ago, when personnel and equipment from throughout Southern California responded to the 400-acre Poinsettia fire, one of several San Diego County wildfires that broke out during a week of intense Santa Ana winds.

Carlsbad and San Marcos both already have off-road fire engines of their own, which makes it easier for firefighters to learn to operate their new state equipment.

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