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Budget Cuts Are Putting Squeeze on Local Fire Departments

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Aired 8/13/09

How will local fire districts deal with the budget cuts from Sacramento? What can residents do on their own to improve local fire protection? We speak to two fire chiefs about the impact of budget cuts on local districts, and to discuss the importance of individual fire preparation.

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Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Above: Firefighters and editors discuss San Diego's level of preparation as we approach fire season.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. So far it's been a quiet fire season for San Diego County, but as everyone who lives here knows, the most dangerous months are still ahead. And this year, the usual threats from wildfire are being complicated by political budget cutting in Sacramento. Fire agencies around the county are losing money because the state is borrowing local tax funds to help cover a massive budget deficit. And the smaller fire agencies in San Diego's back country, where most of our big wildfires start, are being hit the hardest by the budget cuts. With this precarious situation as a backdrop, county fire agencies are urging people to participate in a fire awareness campaign. Volunteers are distributing packets of information in the most fire prone regions, in the hope prevention efforts will reduce the risk of another catastrophic wildfire in San Diego.

With me to talk about the new campaign and how budget cuts are affecting our firefighting capabilities are my guests. Augie Ghio, he's San Miguel Fire Chief and President of the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association. Augie, welcome.

AUGIE GHIO (San Miguel Fire Chief): Thank you for having me, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And Javier Mainar is Assistant Fire Chief with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. And, Chief Mainar, welcome.

JAVIER MAINAR (Assistant Fire Chief, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department): Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

CAVANAUGH: You know, I'm – I want to invite our listeners to join the conversation. I wonder, do you have concerns about this fire season? What are you doing to be prepared? Give us a call with your questions or your comments. The number here is 1-888-895-5727, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. Chief Mainar, may I call you Javier?

MAINAR: Absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. What kind of budget cuts in the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, what kind of budget cuts are you guys facing as a result of the recent state budget revision?

MAINAR: You know, that hasn't yet been decided. I've heard from the mayor that we may be looking, within the city, up to a $100 million deficit. Now, the fire department has about 16% of the general fund so while we've been given no particular targets or direction at this point, we are revisiting some budget cuts that we recommended at the midyear where, in fact, we did about three thousand dollars – excuse me $3 million worth of cuts. We're looking at some that were not accepted at that time to see if they're still viable. And depending upon the number we're given, or the target, we're going to have to look potentially at looking at cutting some core services if the dollar amount is large enough.

CAVANAUGH: Now when you talk about core services, what are the kinds of services you're taking about?

MAINAR: Well, the challenge we face is the City's been under fiscal pressure for a number of years now and the mayor's greatest priority has been to restore fiscal stability to the city, so we've been cutting. And essentially, at this point, all of the low hanging fruit has been gathered. If we're now going to make cuts that total in the multiple millions, we may find ourselves in a position to affect public safety. We may be looking at cuts much as you see in Los Angeles City where they're closing fire companies down or, in some other areas of the state, where they're closing entire fire stations down. We're hopeful we don't get there but we don't yet know whether we're going to be forced to.

CAVANAUGH: And when will we know?

MAINAR: Well, we'll be looking next week, the council's in recess right now. I know the mayor's putting together a plan to inform the department heads about what budget cuts may be needed in each department. At that point, Chief Jarman will gather our staff, we'll review the information we already have and look at what other alternatives are available to us. Hopeful, within the next month we will have some information to share.

CAVANAUGH: And Chief Augie Ghio, what kind of budget cuts is the San Miguel Fire District facing?

GHIO: Quite a few really and it's rather dramatic because, Maureen, what we've really got is an unprecedented down economy right now that's really going to last not just one year but by some experts' projections it could be two, three, four, or five years before we're really recovered so we're taking the long view, is how do we get through this over the next five years? We've already made some dramatic cuts. We cut about $900,000 out of our non-personnel expenditure side. Last year, we implemented a hiring freeze and a promotion freeze. And July 29th, we closed one full engine company, that's nine firefighters, but we did it with the objective of not laying anybody off so – because we weren't hiring and promoting previously, we were fortunate that we're only running about four people long right now and they're covering overtime. We also had to take a look at some of our other services and make sure that we were being very effective with every dollar we budgeted in areas of response, fire prevention, maintenance. Facilities maintenance is a huge issue after years of deferred maintenance. And then we are maintaining to a fair degree our community education and readiness programs because we know this economy's affecting the whole state from a response perspective so there's going to be less first responders statewide to come down to San Diego to help us with our fires. So we want to make sure that the community we serve, throughout San Diego County, is prepared and ready to help themselves, and that's where we're going to save lives, prevent burn injuries and reduce property loss when the next fire hits us.

CAVANAUGH: Now, as president of the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association, you know that so many of the smaller fire agencies have been hit because, first of all, they're not getting as much property tax as they used to, or sales tax revenue, because the economy is down, and because the state is also going to borrow some of that money from the government's budgets. So I'm wondering, what have you been hearing? What – How are they going to find the money that they need to maintain these vital services?

GHIO: It's very difficult, especially for the smaller and the volunteer and the rural fire departments. The first thing that really was a good move by the County of San Diego, Maureen, was that the board of supervisors established last year the San Diego County Fire Authority so 50 fire stations in the unincorporated, more rural part of San Diego County, were brought together under one governance structure, one organization, that Cal Fire is managing for the San Diego County Fire Authority. The second thing that those organizations are doing, they're starting to look to their neighboring agencies and saying how can we get together and do a better job maybe a little more cost effectively and maybe more efficiently. I'll give you a example. La Mesa, Lemon Grove, El Cajon are now getting together, saying how can we administratively and operationally overhead, with our chief officers, work more effectively? The same thing's going on in Solana Beach, Encinitas, Del Mar and Solana Beach (sic). They're looking at some sort of functional consolidation also. A year ago July first, the San Miguel Fire District consolidated with Crest and Bostonia to make a larger organization. I think we're going to have to look more towards those functional and full consolidations and mergers to be more effective and efficient in the fire service in the future. And I think down the line, and this is kind of a – not a new idea, it goes back to the 1970s, we may even have to look at different response models than we currently utilize because we won't be able to afford to build new fire stations and have four- or three-person staffing all the time as our populations grow. We may need to look at different response models similar to what ambulance services have done for years.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, so as fire agencies sort of hunker down and consolidate and try to preserve what's most important in their capacity to fight fires, let's look at the other side of the picture in San Diego now, and that's the environmental conditions. I'm going to ask – Well, I'll leave it up to either of you to answer this. What are the environmental conditions right now? Can you gauge if we're at a higher fire risk due to the dryness in the vegetation or some other kind of environmental factor, Javier?

MAINAR: You know, I'll try and tackle that one. We have seen happen and really looking at it more globally, looking across the world, a lot of places now are experiencing some pretty severe fire weather and fire activity. If you look what has happened recently in Spain, certainly the tragedies that occurred in Australia, I think climate change is beginning to affect us. And certainly here in California, we've recognized for a long time that we really have a year round wildfire season. But I think that's accelerating and the fires are getting hotter, they're burning longer, there are more of them. That's the concern, and those conditions are certainly present here in San Diego County.

CAVANAUGH: And – And, Augie, go ahead.

GHIO: Well, and part of that is we still have three very large areas of unburned fuel out here in San Diego County. So the environment is ripe for another catastrophic fire. Just coming into Spring Valley in my area, we've got the largest swath, 169,000 unburned acres of old fuel. So that environment is out there and this is another step that the County of San Diego has really taken because they adopted a vegetation management program just a few months ago. Now, as funding's made available, we have a blueprint towards mitigating some of that hazard. Of course, there's environmental groups and a whole lot of things that are in between making it happen and funding, but we've got to stay on that because we've allowed people to live in that unincorporated area that's high hazard, high fuel, a high threat, and we didn't really put in the infrastructure or the education and prepare people to live in that environment. So it – it's very, very caustic and – and is a recipe for disaster if we don't handle it right.

CAVANAUGH: And specifically about this fall, I know you must consult with the weather forecasters to find out what are conditions looking like this fall, Augie?

GHIO: Well, it almost sounds like a record year after year, but the same as we've seen in the past. We have drought conditions, extended drought conditions. We're going to have a weather pattern of dry, low fuel moisture, low humidity, and we are anticipating our Santa Ana winds that will be coming up sometime between September and October. So what we're really saying is, is that the people that live in the hazard areas really have to be prepared and ready to protect their homes by – by hardening them, making sure that they've got noncombustible roofs, noncombustible materials around the house, a hundred foot of defensible space, and then that they're ready to go when the evacuation order is given and maybe not even wait until then. Be ready to take action and leave.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Augie Ghio. He's San Miguel Fire Chief and President of the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association. And Javier Mainar, he's Assistant Fire Chief with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. We are inviting your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let's hear from David in Kensington. He's on the line. Good morning, David, and welcome to These Days.

DAVID (Caller, Kensington): Yes, good morning. I did have a question for the fire chiefs. I'm wondering, with all this budget cutting, what do the residents of the county actually lose? What does the impact mean? Slower response times? Perhaps discouraged or exhausted firefighters at times? I'm just not sure what the actual bottom line is for, you know, when the fire department actually gets called.

GHIO: David, that's a really good question. At the local level, although there will be some changes. We have 55 fire departments throughout San Diego County, every one of them is individual. You have the big cities where you live, like the City of San Diego, that is looking at those issues. I'd let Chief Mainer handle that. But throughout the county, there's going to be different levels of change. What the fire chiefs and their elected officials are trying to do, David, is make sure that you're still getting the highest level, the fastest response possible, with the resources that are available. Our biggest concern right now, David, is what's going to happen when we do have the actual Santa Ana winds coming and the fires start north of San Diego County line. How much state mutual aid is going to be available to us to defend our communities and the entire region? That's our biggest concern. What the individual citizen and the neighborhood should consider is get with your local fire department, find out what you can do before the threat to get ready, get set, and leave early before the fire becomes a problem for you.

MAINAR: And, David, if I can address the City of San Diego's situation. Thus far, we've not made any cuts to the fire station staffing, so you won't see any reduction in response times or those kinds of issues. Some operational cuts we have made involve the helicopter program. City of San Diego flies two fire rescue helicopters. This last year, we decided to destaff one of those for the six months of really kind of a slower season for us, from January through June. So that was an issue for us and, luckily, we got through that period without too much difficulty. But should the budget crisis deepen and we do ultimately have to make cuts at the fire station level, the inevitable result of that is reduced response times and in some rare situations you may end up with a situation where a fire engine is not available as quickly, has to come from another district, and sometimes the outcomes from those can be quite – quite tragic.

CAVANAUGH: We have to go to break. We have to go to break but if – before we do, what I'd like to get your – both – both your opinions on the SDG&E plan to basically stop power during certain conditions when there's a Santa Ana, low humidity and so forth. I know that just recently the PUC has basically struck down that plan but there's a possibility that it might come back in September in some different form, you know, and SDG&E would have to notify local officials if they wanted to shut down and get their okay. I know the City of San Diego, the city council, has given its support and so has Chief Jarman to this plan. What do you, Augie Ghio, what do you think about the plan?

GHIO: We voted on this last week at the County Fire Chiefs Association meeting, our monthly meeting, and our membership, by a two-thirds majority, voted to conditionally support the SDG&E plan. And the rationale behind that and the reason is that what is our number one job? It's prevention. Anything that we can do to prevent new fires from starting, especially in that unincorporated, high hazard fuel environment, you know, east of all of the cities, we support to at least try it out, with conditions. We should be able to evaluate every time it happens to see what went well, what needs to be improved, did it work as efficiently and effectively? What were the impacts to the people that live in those communities? There's approximately 65,000 people out there that could be affected by that. We've got to take that into consideration. But remember, there's 3 million people that get affected by the fires that start in that unincoporated area, in the cities and in other fire districts that are directly impacted because our resources are going out there to fight those fires.

CAVANAUGH: We will return in just a few minutes to talk about fire prevention in San Diego, budget cuts to our fire agencies and also a new fire preparedness campaign called "Before the Threat 2009." We will return in just a moment here on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. We're talking about fire, fire prevention, fire budget cuts, and a new campaign to make people aware of what they can do to help prevent fires and the spread of fires in San Diego. My guests are Augie Ghio, San Miguel Fire Chief and President of the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association. Javier Mainar is Assistant Fire Chief with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. And I'd like to welcome a new guest. Sue Carter is executive director of Volunteer San Diego, and she is very involved in the new "Before the Threat 2009" campaign. Good morning, Sue. Welcome to These Days.

SUE CARTER (Executive Director, Volunteer San Diego): Good morning. Thanks, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: What can you tell us about this program?

CARTER: "Before the Threat" is a program designed to help people be as prepared as they can in advance of – or, in the fire season. And one of the main components of it is volunteers distributing these packets. We think that it's going to be more effective to have volunteers delivering the packets and getting to know their neighbors firsthand and encouraging them to take action now. So the Fire Chiefs Association, the County Office of Emergency Services, and a number of other partners invited us to help mobilize the volunteers to participate in this program and we were excited to join in.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I wonder, Sue, what are – what's in these packets that people are going to be getting? And where are they being distributed?

CARTER: They have been distributed over the past couple of weekends all throughout San Diego County. The Fire Chiefs Association really took the lead here. Chief Ghio helped to take this from beyond San Miguel, saw the importance of this, and there is a DVD as well as other materials in there that will help people prepare and know what they can do. The specific steps they can take so that they will be ready for the fire season.

CAVANAUGH: And, Augie, I'm wondering, when you mount a campaign like this it obviously, even though there are volunteers involved, it costs money for materials and so forth, and the fire agencies are really strapped right now wondering where they're going to put their cash, so what kind of decisions have to be made whether or not to mount a big PR campaign like this or to use the money in another direction?

GHIO: Great question. The first thing that has to happen is you have to test the market. We partnered up last year with Farmers Insurance Company in San Miguel almost immediately after the Harris and the Witch fire. They wanted to get involved in something that was going to be a legacy type program. So we drafted it up and ran a pilot program in San Miguel where we, in two weekends, we passed out 10,500 of the first "Before the Threat" door-to-door packets. Then we did a survey of over 500 people that got it and found out that 54% of them took positive action from that material. I went to Ron Lane from County OES and Sue over at Volunteer San Diego and we partnered up this year with all the cities, all the fire districts, Cal Fire, U.S. Forest Service, and Farmers Insurance and we did over 300,000 of these packets door-to-door throughout all of the urban interface area in San Diego County as well as a lot of canyon area in San Diego city. And the beauty of this is, is that we knew that the fire chiefs, the fire districts, the cities had slim budgets to do community education so the County Fire Chiefs Association gave me the authority to go out, develop this partnership, bring in the money, $200,000 from Farmers Insurance, and make these partnerships work. And every one of – we had 53 out of 55 fire agencies in San Diego County on the same weekend delivering the same message in the same methodology to the people that need it. And this will be a continuing program for years to come with our partner Volunteer San Diego and Farmers Insurance.

CAVANAUGH: Sue, I'm wondering, what kind of training did your volunteers need in order to be able to, you know, talk with their neighbors and give them these packets?

CARTER: Umm-hmm. Well, the training was actually pretty straightforward. They all showed up in advance of the distribution and received on the job training, as it were, and then were released out. We were -- You know, we relied all on our partners. We were just the distribution and mobilization mechanism here, so we relied on the expertise of the fire districts to help us, and Farmers Insurance, because so many of their agents were part of this in recruiting some of the volunteers as well. And then people got, really, a rather brief training and were deployed out to get the packets out to as many homes as they could.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take a call. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And Ben Cat is calling from Rancho Penasquitos and, Ben Cat, welcome to These Days.

BEN CAT (Caller, Rancho Penasquitos): Hi. I have big question for you.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

BEN CAT: I live on top of a canyon, and there is about three feet of brush beyond, let's say, a hundred feet from my house, which the housing people clear twice a year. But that seems to be not enough because as your guests say, it's a 365-day fire season. So what can I do, what do I have at my disposal to make sure that the brush is cleared more often, you know?

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that.

MAINAR: That would be a good one for me in the city of San Diego. I will just tell you this is a common complaint that we receive. And what firefighters have settled upon as a reasonable defensible space behind your home is approximately 100 feet. And this becomes a balance point between the fire safety considerations and environmental concerns. One of the reasons people enjoy, I believe, living in San Diego is the beauty of the region. And simply going out and clearing 500 feet of brush, knocking it down to it's nothing, may be effective for fire control but it doesn't do much for the asthetics of the neighborhood and really causes great environmental concerns for watershed. So in situations where it is beyond 100 feet, the City does not do any brush management in those areas. However, if you have a concern that perhaps something is not being done properly, let me provide you with a phone number, and your callers as well, where you can contact the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and we'll send an inspector out to look at it. And that number is: 619-533-4400.

CAVANAUGH: I think that's a great service because I know a lot of people do have that same concern. Let's take another call. Tom is calling from Escondido. Good morning, Tom. Welcome to These Days.

TOM (Caller, Escondido): Yes, thank you. Thank you for taking my call. I have a perspective specific to the last fire, the '07 big one. I'm outside of Escondido, unincorporated area, and I did lose a home to that fire. And my perspective is with the budget that's being cut and all the equipment losses and all the personnel that are being, you know, just lost to dollars, the only defense I truly have is to stay. I'm not planning to evacuate if there's a fire. And I'm going to, you know, take care of business for myself because counting on agencies and I know that you guys are well trained but there's just – it overwhelmed them. I saw it happen. They were totally overwhelmed. I'm sure you had that sense of just helplessness in the face of this enormous event and had I been able to stay and put out basically falling embers and small fires that turned into big fire, I would have not lost my house.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that question, Tom. Augie.

GHIO: Tom, I understand your rationale or your thought on staying and defending but we do not advise that in the fire service for a number of reasons. One, fire conditions can change so fast and it can move so quickly that although what seems ten minutes prior as a good idea for ember control can turn into a catastrophe. Most residents do not have the personal protective equipment, the clothes, to keep themselves safe. They don't think of a contingency plan in case they do get trapped. How do I – how do I have a better chance of surviving if I get overwhelmed? A house in an urban environment is fuel so if it gets bad enough that house will burn. The best thing that we recommend to people is to get ready. Before the threat, you go out and make sure your home is as fire safe as possible and that's what the "Before the Threat" campaign gives you, is the information and the tools to help you do that. Then you get ready, you make sure you have your documents, your heirlooms, your clothes, your water, your family disaster plan ready, and then before the threat, when the evacuation notice comes or even prior to it, you go. You leave early, because when people don't—and we saw this during the Cedar fire and during the Witch and the Harris fire—when people stay, all of a sudden law enforcement and fire have the problem of how do we get to that trapped person? How do we evacuate them? Now we're taking our thin resources, putting them into one individual or one family, and we're putting those firefighters and law enforcement officers at risk where we know we can rebuild. And that's the other part of the "Before the Theat" campaign. There is a recovery phase to that, and you have to think of recovery, again, before the threat.

CAVANAUGH: You know, that stay and defend policy is so – is so attractive to a lot of people but I think just recently in these terrible wildfires they had in Australia, the outcome of that policy was just tragic. So many people lost their lives because they tried to save their homes and they just couldn't be rescued when it got too bad.

GHIO: And one of the other things, Maureen, on this is that by the time they do think of, gee, this is so bad, it's an inferno, a Dante's inferno, I can't take it, I'm feeling trapped and panicky, they get in their cars and then what happens because now the roads are compromised, the smoke is really bad, the heat is searingly intense, they get trapped and die in their cars. It's a tragedy. And we just have to really think beforehand. That's why the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association and the City of San Diego and Volunteer San Diego, Farmers Insurance, County OES, we're putting so much time and effort and searching for grants to keep up the public education and readiness campaign. That's how we're going to save lives and property in the future.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Augie Ghio. He's San Miguel Fire Chief. And Javier Mainar, he's Assistant Fire Chief with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. We still have Sue Carter, Executive Director of Volunteer San Diego on the line. Augie, I wanted to ask you, and Javier too, last November voters narrowly rejected a plan to create a regional fire department that would have given – at least given more money to our firefighting capabilities. And now just recently in San Miguel, people rejected a tax that would've covered a one point – an over a million dollar property tax deficit that you're facing this year. Are you having a difficulty getting the message out? Why do you think these fire protection initiatives are being defeated?

GHIO: I think there's a couple of things in this, Maureen. One is the public is being hit with a long term economic downturn. Their properties have been devalued. Their costs for goods and services has gone up. Many people have lost their jobs. One out of ten people are out of work. Others have lost their benefit packages. So it's gotten really expensive to live in San Diego County. The other thing that's happened is there is a level of distrust of local government. And, unfortunately, fire departments fall under the local government issue right now because we're trapped in that time in – in our culture. So what's been happening is people are looking at their checkbook. They can afford to eat. They can afford to make the payments on the house sometimes. And then along comes emergency services saying, listen, we want to provide the best level of service possible, we need your help. We're doing everything we can to contain our costs but now we need to come to you, the citizen, if you want to maintain this level of service or improve it, we're going to ask you, not tell you, ask you for your help. You make the decision through the democratic process and vote on it. Well, with Prop B on the countywide one, they told us, we're not ready yet. Your plan isn't there for us to support. There was not enough detail in the plan at that time. And then in San Miguel what they told us is, listen, we can't afford it. Do the best you can with what you've got. And then our job is to go ahead and do that. Give the snappy salute, we heard from the citizens, we're going to do the best job with what we've got left.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take another call. Victor is calling from Jamul. Good morning, Victor. Welcome to These Days.

VICTOR (Caller, Jamul): Yeah, good morning. And I also was a fire victim and lost a house in Jamul. And I go along with Augie about thinking that people should leave their homes when the fire happens but in building my house, we had to put in a sprinkling system that works off electricity where the main trigger of it comes from it. So, you know, the house itself, again, now is just based on a normal house because the sprinkler system is out if the electrical goes out.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, Victor, thank you.

GHIO: Victor, that's a good question. That's something that we've been talking quite a bit with with SDG&E, the County of San Diego, and a lot of the other stakeholders. In the SDG&E plan, it's very few – very few areas that would be affected at any one time. It's kind of like in nodes throughout based on five basic factors. One of the issues is, is that there would be at least a six-hour window prior to the power being shut off that citizens in those areas would be notified either through SDG&E and, hopefully, also County OES because we would assume that they would stand up, the County EOC, and then start doing the reverse 911 calls. But the other part of the prevention side, Victor, and it sounds like you're pretty astute on it anyway, supporting the leave early order on evacuation. Having backup generation is something that we really need to think of when we live in an urban area, urban interface area. I live in Jamul also and I use my motorhome generator as a backup power. Not everybody has that ability but it's something we need to think about. As far as schools and water districts, SDG&E has committed to making generators available and actually doing the wiring harness to make it compatible and get it out there before the need. So I hope that answers your question.

MAINAR: You know, and I would just like to add as well, earlier Chief Ghio was discussing the leave early concept. And what happened in Australia was tragic. A lot of those people waited too long to leave. They got caught on the roadways, a wind shift killed a lot of them there. The fire service officials throughout the State of California united saying, you know, get ready, prepare your home, be set to leave when it comes, and leave early enough to totally get out of the area before the fire strikes. City of San Diego is no different. We understand the concerns that ember control is a big issue, does result in the ignition of many homes. We're increasing our capability to do patrols of neighborhoods where these ember showers are occurring so that we don't have some of what occurred in Rancho Bernardo occur in the future. But it really is not a safe environment for any homeowner.

CAVANAUGH: And, Sue, we're just about out of time but I'm going to give you the last word. You and your volunteers have been distributing these packets, "Before the Threat 2009," and I'm wondering, if people do still want to volunteer to help local fire agencies, are there other ways that they can do it?

CARTER: Absolutely. One of the things that we found in the fires in 2007 were people were asking how can I help? And one of the best things you can do is just to get ready now. And we have opportunities on our website, volunteersandiego.org, that are everything from neighborhood watch and fire safe councils that give you materials and resources on how you can make your own property safe, how you can help take care of your neighbors who might not be able to evacuate on their own, or pets, for example, as well as some long term disaster types of opportunities whether it's with a CERT Team, the Red Cross, animal services or Volunteer San Diego's own disaster cadre to help coordinate the volunteers in the case of the next disaster. So we need everyone who is interested in this and can take responsibility now, when we have the time to think about it, to visit us and find out where the opportunities are so we can get them engaged where they can make the most difference.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you so much, Sue Carter, Augie Ghio and Javier Mainar. Thank you all for coming in and thank you for talking with us this morning.

GHIO: Thank you.

MAINAR: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

CARTER: Thanks.

CAVANAUGH: And These Days will continue in just a few moments. Stay with us here on KPBS.

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