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Interior Secretary, Congressman Lobby For Wildfire Funding Plan In El Cajon

Interior Secretary, Congressman Lobby For Wildfire Funding Plan In El Cajon

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Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Rep. Scott Peters back creating a funding plan to treat wildfires more like natural disasters.

Photo caption:

Photo by Dwane Brown

The Cal Fire Incident Command Center is shown in El Cajon, Oct. 14, 2015.

Federal officials on Wednesday toured the Cal Fire Incident Command Center in El Cajon in an effort to highlight the threat of wildfires.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell joined Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, who is calling on Congress to create a funding plan that would treat wildfires similar to natural disasters.

Peters' plan, which the Obama administration supports, would provide greater certainty in addressing growing fire suppression needs while preserving funds meant for prevention and other non-suppression programs.

"When we have a bad fire year, we take money from the prevention fund," said Jewell, who is touring California and Washington, two states devastated this year by wildfires. "We take money from the burned area rehabilitation fund and we use that to suppress the fires. It makes it much worse and it costs us much more in the long run."

Peters urged the public to prepare for wildfires as California experiences one of the driest periods in history. The largest wildfires in San Diego County history occurred in October — one in 2003 and the other in 2007.

"Let's do what San Diegans do — let's not wait for some other government to solve the problem," Peters said. "Let's make sure we take it up at a community level and individual level."

KPBS web producer Hoa Quach contributed to this report.

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