With 32 rescues last year and already 24 rescues this year, plus a fatality, the trailhead to Cedar Creek Falls remains an issue for our local first responders.
Ramona Fire Department/Cal Fire Battalion Chief Burke Kremensky told the water board at Tuesday's bimonthly that though Cedar Creek is owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service, rescues fall upon both the San Diego Sheriff's Department and San Diego Rural Fire.
"ASTREA ends up flying [rescues] out and Cal Fire transports them," Kremensky told the board.
Kremensky also stated that 67 percent of the rescues are due to heat-related injuries.
"The sheriff's department has done a good job at closing down the trailhead on our side," Kremensky said, "But people go through the Julian side."
According to Kremensky, a lot of people don't bring enough water with them on their hikes. Currently, no water is provided at the trailheads on either side.
Ramona Municipal Water District General Manager David Barnum said the district has offered to provide water at the trailhead on the Ramona side, but that it still needs approval from San Diego LAFCO.
"The trail itself is outside our fire area," Barnum said. "We need a five-party agreement for water at the trailhead."
New Sheriff's Lt. James Bovet told the water board that an ad-hoc committee has been formed to help solve the problem of frequent rescues, which cost the sheriff's department and fire agencies money each time a rescue is performed.
"We're trying to find a way to keep people safe down there," Bovet said. "And a way to pay for it."
Kremensky said at some Cedar Creek rescues, Station 81 has to make an hour and a half commitment away from the community to transport the victim down to Pomerado Hospital in Escondido.
Board member Darrell Beck said that the arrangement between the nationally-owned land and our local agencies is an unfair one.
"This land isn't generating any revenue and we're getting stuck with the bill," Beck said. "The problem we have is to make sure our stations aren't uncovered."
Board President Bryan Wadlington also expressed distaste for the unnecessary services our local fire station has to provide due to rescues at Cedar Creek.
"I don't think the people of Ramona are getting a fair share out of this," Wadlington said. "I can't believe this is going on under our noses."
Barnum said for now, what's most important is informing the public on the dangers of the trail.
"I think what's critical in this is that you (the water board) and public is informed," Barnum said. "We are trying to provide critical water at the trailhead."
The trailhead remains closed since the death of a hiker last summer at the Falls. The hike is accessed from Thornbush Road in San Diego Country Estates. Access from the Julian side re-opened in March.
"While this trail is closed, there is still a great deal of activity," Barnum said. "There's only so much to go around (resource-wise)."
U.S. Forest Services anticipates the opening the trailhead in early 2013.
"There's a real risk going down there," Bovet said of the trail. "It's not all fun and games."