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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Fire Officials Unite to Create Better Regional Fire System

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It's an ambitious enterprise – unifying San Diego’s 65 separate fire agencies and taking a regional approach to meeting emergency needs. That's just what the San Diego County Fire Chiefs' Association and Fire Districts' Association are setting out to do. The Chiefs have developed a strategy for countywide disaster planning and preparedness.

Fire officials met today, unveiling a ten-point plan to create a more organized and effective regional system. Among the goals are: efforts to improve fire and rescue operations by working with the Unified Disaster Council and the San Diego Association of Governments, develop a single county-wide emergency communications system, and improve cooperation with the military and law enforcement.

Fire Chief Augie Ghio also addressed another plan priority – upgrading technology to improve response times.

Augie Ghio: Well, recently, through the Homeland Security dollars, we've managed to put the money together and we're very close to having mobile data terminals, mobile data computers with automatic vehicle location devices on all of our vehicles throughout the county of San Diego, at least all of the paid departments. So those types of programs enhance the level of service and the speed of service to everyone in our communities.

But improving the ability of fire fighters to respond to an emergency may be only half the battle. Officials say it's important to remember the lessons from the catastrophic wildfires in 2003. Ghio says with the new plan, San Diegans will see a bigger focus on community education and prevention.

Augie Ghio: About every three or six months after a major event, people start forgetting. Amnesia sets in. Well, our job is to stop that amnesia process and to make sure that the public understands that we can only protect them so far. There is a direct responsibility from the community and the individual to self-prepare and be ready until such time that we can get there during a significant event.

Fire officials say they will release an annual report card to the public that highlights accomplishments as well as future needs.

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