Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Injustice

San Diego County Agencies Ready To Fight Wildfires

CAL FIRE Chief Tom Mecham addresses the media during a press conference about...

Photo by Melissa Mae

Above: CAL FIRE Chief Tom Mecham addresses the media during a press conference about Wildfire Preparedness at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, CA on July 16, 2021.

Wildfires in San Diego County are becoming more frequent and devastating.

In the last two decades, the county has invested almost $600 million toward expanding its firefighting capacity, because the dangers of wildfires have expanded as well.

Listen to this story by Melissa Mae

Board of Supervisors Chairman and County Fire Protection District President Nathan Fletcher described the wildfire damage in 2020: "Last year alone, California experienced six of the largest and most destructive wildfires in our state’s history in one year, more than four million acres were burned," Fletcher said.

RELATED: Pace Of California Wildfires Well Ahead Of Disastrous 2020

The county’s wildfire response capacity spans several agencies. They are all partnering to reassure the community that they’re prepared to combat wildfires on the ground and in the air.

Fletcher said, "San Diego County is prepared and ready to respond to wildfires, and that is thanks to the incredible hard work and diligence of our fire services, of our law enforcement agencies, of our non-profit communities, of our partners in the utility industry."

Every individual in all of these agencies all have one thing in common: "Everyday these individuals are willing to put their life on the line to run towards the sound of danger to protect not just people and property and our environment," Fletcher said.

California is currently in a wildfire crisis.

"Fire does not know jurisdictional boundaries, it doesn’t stop at the edge of one jurisdiction and wait for permission to go into the next, which means our agencies must all work together and they do," Fletcher noted.

RELATED: California To Add Nearly 1,400 Firefighters Amid Dry Weather

CAL FIRE Chief Tony Mecham said 2020 was a bad wildfire year and 2021 is already worse.

"We so far statewide have responded to 4,100 wildfires that is 1,200 more fires than we responded to last year,” Mecham went on to say, “Already this year in San Diego County we’ve burned more than 7,000 acres with five major incidents."

CAL FIRE has added 120 firefighters just for San Diego County.

Mecham said, "We have increased our hand crews in a partnership with the California National Guard and the California Conservation Corps. We have initiated a nearly 6.5 million dollar project to increase the capacity at the Ramona air attack base."

They’ve also increased their hand crews, installed additional fire cameras and implemented fire modeling software.

"I have that software on my phone and within a minute of the first 911 dispatch I can run advanced software modeling and look at the threat of what that fire will be over the next hours," Mecham said.

CAL FIRE is also focusing on creating wildfire resiliency in San Diego.

"The County of San Diego created a Comprehensive Community Risk Reduction Program," Mecham said. "We took all of our pre-fire activities from educating school children, to defensible space, to the evacuation corridor, to land use planning and we put those all into one program so that they work seamlessly with a focus on reducing the risk."

San Diego County Firefighters train daily to be prepared to combat wildfires.

San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowell elaborated on the collaborative wildfire efforts.

"We’ve identified what we call mutual threat zones, these are areas that the fires threaten multiple jurisdictions and we’ve agreed upon common ordering procedures and communication methods for improved efficiency," Stowell said.

RELATED: California’s Water Worries May Not Affect San Diego

Reported by Melissa Mae

Mecham urged San Diegans to have their addresses posted, so emergency crews can identify the location in an emergency and also go to readyforwildfire.org.

Fletcher said there are other steps San Diegans can take to prepare as well.

"Every San Diegan has a job to do to be ready, signing up for text alerts, having an evacuation plan, preparing your home," Fletcher said.

San Diegans are also encouraged to clear 100 feet of defensive space around their home, use fire resistant landscaping, follow @ReadySanDiego and @CALFIRESanDiego on Twitter.

Emergency information websites include SDCountyEmergency.com, SDCountyFire.org and ReadySanDiego.org and register for Alert San Diego to get updates on your phone.

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Melissa Mae

Melissa Mae
Freelance Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a freelance reporter, I cover a wide variety of stories. One day I may cover the current COVID-19 situation and the next day my story may be about a San Diego landmark. With a background in sports broadcasting, any time I get to cover a sports story is an added bonus! I love covering stories about the place I am lucky enough to call home, San Diego.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.