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Cal Fire, Marine Corps, Navy Join Forces In San Diego County

For the first time in about five years, Cal Fire got assistance from the military to put out a series of wildfires in San Diego's rural backcountry last week. The Vallecito fires in East County posed enough of a threat to people and property to call in Marine and Navy assets.

Evening Edition

By the time the lightening-sparked fires near Julian were contained last weekend, more than 23,000 acres were burned, but few structures were damaged and no one was severely hurt. Eight Marine Corps helicopters and three Navy choppers pitched in for the first time since the devastating 2007 wildfires in San Diego County.

"We train continuously year after year for an event like this, so it was very fulfilling to see the plan that we put forth come together in a safe and effective manner to serve the public," Cal Fire battalion chief Ray Chaney said. Chaney is stationed in Ramona and says the biggest challenge working with the military was integrating resources effectively.

"So how can we safely take a Navy or Marine Corps aircraft and put them into an environment they've never worked in before, working alongside civilian aircraft in a very delicately balanced and congested airspace over a fire," Chaney said.

He said they were able to meet the challenge because they train with the military every year for such an event.

"So when we did activate them it was a seamless transition for them to come into the recent incidents," he said.

Cal Fire has the largest aerial fire fighting fleet in the world and can respond to a 911 call within 15 minutes anywhere in California. Chaney grew up in San Diego and has always enjoyed flying and he proudly showed off his office where he commands the fire fight from the air. With the Santa Ana season still to come, Chaney recommends we all go over our emergency plans for what to do in case of a fire. For suggestions go to the county's emergency planning website

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Avatar for user 'Afanofthelittleguys'

Afanofthelittleguys | August 26, 2012 at 5:25 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

"After five years they got assistance" ??? Give me a break. Either your reporter has a short memory or didn't know to look at the history.

Remember the 2003 Cedar Fire? Still the largest fire in the history of California? On the night it broke out, the military pilots asked over and over for permission to fly and fight the fire but oh, no, Cal Fire couldn't let that happen that night or for the duration. After all, military pilots aren't trained, according to Cal Fire, even though they put out fires all the time. So the fire that just might have been put out the first night while it was small grew because of a turf war. Fire victims screamed. The state said they would work something out. But Cal Fire drug its feet so badly that by the time the 2007 fire came, FOUR years later, it is as if the previous controversy never occured and once again, the military pilots offered to join the fight and once again, Cal Fire said no.

So to say they accepted "accepted assistance" too bad they didn't accept assistance on October 25, 2003. Maybe over 2500 homes would not have been destroyed and maybe 13 people would not have lost their lives due to a turf war.

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