Fire Department

The Sycuan Fire Department was established on October 11, 1974 to provide the Reservation Residents a much needed service that was not provided by the non-reservation emergency service providers.


The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, by agreement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, only provided wildfire suppression for six months during the fire season, but no support towards structure fires because of threats to the wildland. Indian Reservations were left at great risk without any type of fire service for the winter months.

fire_dept_logoA newly formed agency, The San Diego Office of Fire Service was forming Volunteer Departments within the County to provide Structural/EMS services to the back county residents who were in the same situation as the 18 Indian Reservations in the Country. The Fire Service Office provided the equipment, training, and dispatch service with the local community providing the personnel. Sycuan entered into an agreement with a local Federal Manpower Training Program to pay for firefighters.

The Alpine Fire Protection District located eight miles away agreed to train six firefighters over a one-year period in structural fire suppression and first aid. The California Department of Forestry provided a 40-hour wildland academy and in 1978, Sycuan sent 14 personnel to a 360-hour fire academy at the Heartland Fire Training Center in El Cajon utilizing the Bureau of Indian Affairs Education Scholarship for the tuition. All graduated as Fire-Fighter-I and EMT/FS.

These personnel returned to the Sycuan, Rincon and Viejas Reservations to staff their fire engines. In 1989, Sycuan implemented an EMT Ambulance service (BLS) to the reservation and as well as to adjacent non-indian neighbors. In 1999, Sycuan Fire Department of the Kumeyaay Nation was the very first Fire Department in the East County of San Diego to provide Advance Life Support (ALS) assessment engine to the community and its neighbors. Today Sycuan has a fleet of one Medic Truck Company, one Type-I Engine, two Type-III Wildland Engines, one Advanced Life Support (ALS) Ambulance, and one reserve Advance Life Support (ALS) Ambulance providing services to both reservation residents and the surrounding communities of Dehesa Valley, Harbison Canyon, Alpine, Jamul, Jucumba, and, at times, the community of Boulevard.

On October 11th, 2004, the Sycuan Fire Department of the Kumeyaay Nation will be celebrating thirty (30) years of service to the community of Sycuan and surrounding neighbors. Chief Henry “Hank” Murphy founded the Sycuan Fire Department on October 11th, 1974 and the department continues to strive for excellence under his guidance and leadership. The Department has a total of 30 sworn full time paid personnel that work a schedule of two (2) days on and four (4) days off, and consist of three (3) fire platoons. These three (3) platoons are responsible for 24 hours a day 7 days a week emergency response for the Reservation and its surrounding communities. In addition to emergency responses, each platoon has been designated an additional administrative role where “A” platoon is in charge of Fire Communications, “B” platoon in Fire Prevention/Inspection, and “C” platoon in Training Development. The Department also keeps a pool of 45 seasonal employees during the summer months that are responsible for the staffing of two (2) Type III Wildland apparatus a twenty (20) person Inter-Agency-Hotshots (IHC) that is currently on Trainee status. The Sycuan Fire Department of the Kumeyaay Nation through a cooperative partnership with the San Diego Fire and Rescue Department, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is currently staffing two medium size Type II helicopter(s). County Copter 1 is a Bell 212 HP stationed at Montgomery Field, while County Copter 2 is a Bell 205 A1 stationed at Fallbrook. Both helicopters are equipped with self-filling 350-gallon fixed tanks, rescue hoist, Night Sun searchlight systems, USFS /OAS approved rappel brackets, etc. All program participants fully meet the NIIMS PMS 310-1 requirements. The Flycrew is an ICS Type 1 crew and conducts all helicopter operations in accordance with the policies of the CDF 8300 Manual and the Interagency Helicopter Operations Guide (IHOG).