Enhancing San Diego’s Wildfire Response
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Aired 6/25/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.
County Supervisors Move Forward To Enhance San Diego's Wildfire Response
Supervisor Dianne Jacob, San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Chief Kelly Zombro, Cal Fire San Diego
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously directed staff to convene a workshop of fire, government and military officials to further improve coordination and address 21 recommendations in a report on last month's wildfires.
As of June 11, 2014, the number of buildings destroyed and damaged by the May fires is as follows:
64 homes (46 single-family houses, 18-unit apartment building)
2 commercial structures
1 modular building
14 accessory structures
14 single-family houses
2 multi-family apartment buildings
2 accessory structures
1 commercial structure
Source: San Diego County Communications Office
Various agencies worked together much more effectively during the outbreak that began May 13 compared to previous firestorms in 2003 and 2007, but "we can't rest on our laurels," Supervisor Dianne Jacob said.
"This is an opportunity as a region to sit down and talk about next steps, " Jacob said. "How can we be better, how can we be the best prepared that we can be, and what we can afford to be, and come back with some recommendations on how we can improve the region's fire protection system. "
More than a dozen fires broke out that day and the following day, burning down 65 structures, including 46 single-family homes, according to county statistics. Several apartments and commercial structures were also destroyed.
Flames scorching tens of thousands of acres of brush forced the evacuation of the Cal State San Marcos campus and temporarily closed numerous schools and businesses.
Damage to private property was estimated at $29.8 million. Officials figured it cost $28.5 million to fight the blazes, which includes the cost of debris removal.
Among the major needs addressed in the report were for public information campaigns to get residents to better prepare for wildfires and follow evacuation orders; for emergency information to be delivered in languages other than English; for forward-looking infrared imaging devices to help firefighters locate hot spots in smoky conditions; for pre-positioning firefighting aircraft at the onset of dangerous fire weather; and for ways that officials can verify information quickly so it can be given to the public.
County officials also discussed a possible need for a third firefighting helicopter. Jacob said it could take eight to 10 months to acquire another chopper.
Staffers were directed to convene the workshop within 45 days and come back to the board in three months with ideas on how to standardize regulations during red flag warnings and other dangerous fire weather.
KPBS' Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to the Midday and Evening Edition segments