The Palomar Mountain Fire Department was first organized on October 1, 1975 when it was revealed that the County of San Diego had decided not to renew the contract with CDF (now Cal Fire) for fire protection in the back country. When the contract expired on July 1, 1976 the department took over emergency response services with an initial enrollment of 25 volunteers. Local resident Bill Richardson was the first fire chief.
The County of San Diego provided used firefighting equipment to the back country fire departments in the early days, along with basic medical training and supplies.
The fire department had no facilities to house the equipment in the beginning. Various locations around the mountain served as the "station" including the county yard, Bailey's Hotel, the Palomar Observatory, and the Crestline Water Company building.
The fire department desperately needed property to erect a station barn to house the engines and supplies. Through fund raisers and donations enough money was raised to purchase a piece of property centrally located to serve the community. The present-day fire station property, located at the intersection of Crestline Road and East Grade Road, was formerly a gas station and store. After the store burned in the 1930's a house was built on the site.
Fundraisers are an important part of a volunteer fire department's income, and one of the biggest events on Palomar Mountain is the annual barbecue to help support the department. The first barbecue was held on September 3, 1977 at the Skyline Lodge at the end of Crestline Road. Since then, on each and every Saturday of the Labor Day weekend the annual barbecue is held, generating an important part of the department's income.
Committees are formed, food and refreshments are acquired, entertainment and craft sales are displayed and a festive mood is provided at the Palomar Mountain Fire Department annual barbecues.
Much has changed over the years at the fire department. New, modern equipment has been acquired and training to higher levels than ever are provided to the members. Now, most members of the department are career oriented individuals using the experience of a volunteer fire department to help them get a full-time paid job. Thanks to the efforts of former board members, barbecue committee members, fire chiefs, community members and department personnel, Palomar Mountain can be proud of what has been accomplished over the years.