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San Diego County Officials Mark One Year Since May 2014 Wildfires

San Diego County Supervisors Bill Horn and Dianne Jacob discuss firefighting resources, one year after Cocos fire, May 13, 2015.
Beverley Woodworth
San Diego County Supervisors Bill Horn and Dianne Jacob discuss firefighting resources, one year after Cocos fire, May 13, 2015.

San Diego County fire officials and community leaders on Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the devastating May 2014 wildfires.

At a news conference, officials talked about lessons learned and improvements made to fighting wildfires.

San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said enhanced coordination between agencies, plus new equipment purchases, such as a helicopter, will help firefighting capabilities this upcoming fire season.

“This year, and it could be a rough one, we're better prepared for wildfires than we have ever been," Jacob said. “We've worked hard across our backcountry to boost the number of boots on the ground and the assets in the air — that's the one-two punch that puts those fires out. And the goal is to get them out in 10 acres or less.“

The county now has more fire and rescue helicopters, more fire engines, water tenders, paramedics, and more firefighters stationed in the most vulnerable areas, Jacob said.

A new challenge for firefighters this year is the deepening drought.

Carlsbad Fire Chief Michael Davis said they are concerned about the effect water restrictions may have on homeowners' ability to maintain defensible space around their property.

“We have discussed as a fire service as a whole, what's going to happen if people start turning the potable water off to their landscape — but more their defensible space — the thing that gives us the opportunity to save their home," Davis said. “Our recommendation can be: work with your municipality, your local fire service to get an assessment and see what you can do to maintain that without water.”

Additional firefighting improvements have included consolidating backcountry volunteer fire departments for better communication and creating community advisory groups to help disseminate emergency information in communities that do not get their information from traditional media.

Predictive weather models of Santa Ana conditions have been developed for more efficient deployment of firefighting resources.